Project-Based Learning is the natural way to learn. Students set their own learning goals in order to meet the graduation requirements of the school. At Escuela Verde, students develop, research, work, and produce their own projects—they meet learning on their own terms.
In practice, Project-Based Learning means:
- Students design their own learning projects, with their advisor’s advice and guidance.
- Primary focus is on a constructivist pedagogy: students self-determine what and how they want to learn.
- Small advisories that make for plenty of personal attention.
- Students and educational advisors co-develop a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) that meets the needs of the student.
- All students graduate prepared for post-secondary education, workplace, and active citizenship.
We believe that empowering students to create a better world around them will lead to overall improved health and wellness of person, community, and natural environment. Because of that belief, we embrace the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education’s Standards for Sustainability, and we view these standards as complimentary to the Common Core State Standards for academic education.
All students will be asked to incorporate these standards into every project they complete. Standards of Sustainability are: Cultural Preservation & Transformation Responsible Local & Global Citizenship The Dynamics of Systems & Change Sustainable Economics Healthy Commons Natural Laws & Ecological Principles Inventing & Affecting The Future Multiple Perspectives Strong Sense Of Place
According to theorist Levana Saxon, “Ecopedagogy is a discourse, a movement, and an approach to education […] that seeks to re-educate ‘planetary citizens’ to care for, respect and take action for all life” (www.practicingfreedom.org). We believe that ecopedagogy asks our students to view themselves as planetary citizens able to create the world they would like to see, rather than observers who must watch as their communities are exploited and abused. This encourages students to take responsibility for creating the healthy, resilient, and sustainable communities that embrace multiple perspectives and truths.
The Freire Institute, an educational organization founded on educational theorist Paolo Freire’s philosophies, defines praxis as “action/reflection. It is not enough for people to come together in dialogue in order to gain knowledge of their social reality. They must act together upon their environment in order critically to reflect upon their reality and so transform it through further action and critical reflection.”
We practice praxis at Escuela Verde so that we are always critically reflecting on our actions in order to transform ourselves and our communities.
Wikipedia has a great definition: “Restorative Justice (also sometimes called “reparative justice”) is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims, offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service”. Restorative justice involves both victim and offender and focuses on their personal needs. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offenses. Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.”
YPEAR is an acronym for Youth Participatory Ecojustice Action Research. It is based on the practice of YPAR (Youth Participatory Action Research), which takes young people out into their communities to identify problems and propose solutions. YPEAR allows young people to specifically focus on environmental justice issues. Escuela Verde students are encouraged to incorporate YPEAR into their projects, and it is a cornerstone of the Senior Capstone Project required to graduate.
Twice per year, we require our students to present their projects – one showcase and one presentation in front of the audience. “Showcasing” is similar to a science fair presentation, where presenters stand behind their projects and talk one-on-one with Presentation Night attendees. We host four Presentation Nights per year. They are free, open to the public, and are either at Escuela Verde or at a nearby location.
Four times per year, we open up the school to the community. We believe that a school should be a gathering place where bonds can be formed, fellowship can be shared, and all feel welcomed. Generally, our students help to plan and prepare for our Community Nights, and we use them to host such fun events as potlucks, game nights, karaoke, maker markets, and more!
Most everyone who has thought about it realizes that the very school systems that teach democracy are the least democratic institutions in a community. At Escuela Verde, learners and advisors work together, openly and transparently (while respecting confidentiality and shared needs) to manage the school. Escuela Verde itself is the project that everyone works on, even when they are busy on other projects.
Escuela Verde is an advisor-led school. We do not have a principal to rule us or a Central Office to drive us. We fully support and expect a strong, active, participative student governance group.
In short, ‘democratized education’ means that we model the principles of a democratic society in our everyday work.