Progressive School of Long Island
New York, USA
By Eric Jacobson
School Theme 2017-2018
Last year our theme was Integral Learning. We experimented with thematic units that integrated many academic disciplines. By contrast, most school learning is accomplished through separate subject studies. For example, the History of the Ancient Greeks would be a social studies unit—removed from reading, writing, math, science, art, music, etc. But in our daily life and jobs, learning tends to be integrated, rarely sorted and artificially detached into academic niche subjects. Furthermore, children’s minds are touched and inspired by the thematic approach which shows the connection between subjects, exposing the deeper meaning and purpose for learning.
Ecology is the study of how Life interrelates in a systemic way with all biological forms and their surroundings. Relationships take place at the atomic and molecular level, between plants and animals, and among species in ecological networks and systems.
Last year we chose to combine Integral Learning with Ecology, resulting in Integral Ecology. Integral Ecology is a new movement that seeks to bring the deep understanding of interrelationship that Ecology demonstrates into all aspects of human life. In this movement, Ecology is used as a natural guiding principle to promote the greater good, to help find sustainable solutions to our collective problems, and to determine equitable methods for solving them. Ecology can be applied to many aspects of school life, and we will be experimenting with these as the year progresses.
This is Integral Ecology—meshing Ecology as a guiding truth into our thematic, integrated style of teaching, and also extending ecological principles beyond academics until their touch blesses every aspect of our school life.
Saera Grade 4
Some examples of Integral Ecology in action are:
- Garden plots for every grade
- A special outdoor garden curriculum
- New imaginative approaches to behavioral and emotional therapy
- Collective recycled art projects
- Minimizing our trash
- Triangular learning: History to Current Event Debating to Volunteering
- Paying attention to our ecology carbon footprint
- Evaluating the positive nature of our emotional footprint
- Reflections on the ripple effects of our actions
The Year of Best Practice
School Theme 2018-2019
The Progressive School has thrived for 33 years with a wide variety of themes. One thing that has not changed over the course of those years is the school’s philosophy.
The way in which that philosophy touches our school is represented by the graphic at the right. Just as the thumb touches each finger of the hand, so does the philosophy of neohumanism touch every aspect of what makes up the complete Progressive School experience.
Neohumanist education can be simplified into three basic tenets:
- Expanding the Heart
- Freeing the Mind
- Serving Society
This philosophy affects how we think, act, make decisions, and live our lives. It affects our curriculum choices, and the methods we prefer to use for long-term retention and values creation. Finally, it affects the way we assess our students.
All together, we call this best practice. We view this year as an opportunity to review, rethink, and retrain ourselves, as well as a wonderful way to help our newer staff members assimilate into our rich educational culture.