Wyldflower is a K-5 school that reimagines education. By taking the best practices from both early childhood education and hands-on, project-based experiential learning, we strive to meet students’ needs in a flexible, mixed-age environment that breaks the conventional walls between school and the community outside the classroom. We offer a broad-spectrum learning environment designed to encourage creative capacity, tenacity, and citizenship.
Using 3 learning journeys a year will provide a framework for deeply engaged learning. Children develop the ability to find wonder and delight in the exploration of any topic, to practice working together to turn ideas into reality, and to learn how to communicate what they have done and why – all in the context of a diverse community of collaborators, families, volunteers, and supporters.
The Wyldflower Learning Community is aptly named as it can be illustrated by Allsion Gopnik’s metaphor of The Gardener and The Carpenter. Through her years of collaboration and research, she could best describe the development of a child as a flower in a garden. A gardener provides the needed environment for the individual to thrive but can’t force the flower to grow. Today, society mostly takes a carpenters approach when educating children; actively trying to shape and create a certain person. The gardener approach, paradoxically, does lead to positive, wanted outcomes but out of the determination of the child who’s going through the learning process themselves. The advantage to the gardener approach is creating a stronger individual with better long-term outcomes while avoiding the unintended consequences of trying to control the learning process. By setting up a carefully designed environment, we are creating a place where children’s minds can optimally grow, obtaining the skills and knowledge needed to live healthy, successful lives. By intentionally integrating outdoor exploration we allow our children to flourish in a natural setting in the wild areas of Wyoming.
Empirically authenticated research greatly influences our approach. Practices and concepts that can be attributed to well-being (physical and psychological) are incorporated into our learning space. This is where our value of play is highlighted. In the words of psychiatrists Stewart Brown, “play lights up the brain like nothing else.”
The numerous and tested benefits of play and it’s connection with the psychological term known as flow, is why we use this approach so much. If you aren’t emotionally and intellectually hooked on a topic or activity for its own sake, you aren’t optimally learning. Incorporating as much play as possible ensures students are intrinsically growing over time.
Our standards will be based on the whole person as well as our foundational pillars.
Community Involvement: Each individual must feel connected, valued, needed, and productive. By keeping our adult:student ratio low we will accomplish secure relationship building with each student. By doing meaningful work chosen and directed by the student, a feeling of belonging and productivity naturally follows. By using a place-based lense, we will use Sheridan and the surrounding areas as our classroom. By involving community members in our class setting, as well as taking students out into the community we will cement the ideology that learning happens everywhere and at anytime.
Self-Development: Developmental medical and psychological research has long documented that the individual progresses at a unique pace. A person needs space and time to allow individual passions to sprout and flourish. We need support and experience to gain a deep understanding of one’s unique strengths and struggles. We want to prepare the student for the path, not dictate what path each student should take. We want to create an environment that challenges the individual to get to know themselves better. To see them develop the grit it takes to conquer fears and overcome obstacles in life.
Intellectual and Social Development and Interaction: An environment of interested and interesting people is intellectually and socially stimulating (Ellen)
Language and numeracy are just as powerful as drills and saws when it comes to bringing an idea to life. We love language and numbers and work first and foremost to instill that love in our students. We make time everyday to gain new skills and strategies for writing, reading and manipulating numbers. Our small student to teacher ratio creates more opportunities for one on one conferencing. The multi age band allows students to collaborate with a wide range of peers who have diverse approaches to problem solving.
Math should be collaborative, creative, playful and when possible contextualized in a project. We draw inspiration from researchers such as Constance Kamii and Jo Boaler to create highly visual and manipulative based math provocations that challenge students to think in patterns. It is important that math be authentically framed in real-world engagement. For example when students are creating solar concentrators to roast marshmallows during math students would be playing with angles of reflection and studying the history of why there are 360 degrees in a circle. History and science are woven into our explorations and projects.
As students move from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn our Readers and Writers workshop takes on new dimensions of contextualization. Reading and writing are important tools for research, reflection, and contacting experts. Writing often becomes a project in and of itself.
It’s a powerful thing to be in a place where your ideas and the ideas of your peers are integrated into the curriculum and shape the fabric of your school days. This kind of freedom isn’t possible without a strong foundation of loving and nuanced communication. Wyldflower builds student’s ability to navigate conflict, build empathy and identify and communicate their thoughts and emotions with kindness. Our days are built around group meetings, school wide gatherings, working with vigor and having fun. Through proactive discussions and the ever important moments of reflection, everything we do here always comes back to the ethic “Did I do it with care”. We believe that all of us have value, a story and great worth. It is only through the individual and joint work of understanding this can we truly be our best.
Whole Health Focus: A deeper understanding of our connection with our natural location, physical wellbeing, mental health, spiritual self, and relationships with each other. (Ellen)
- Our form of governance-
- Governing body-
- Judicial system-
- Break down 1 year plan
- 3 journeys
4. Developmental break down of full career (Ellen)
Early Ed and Early Elementary
Our youngest humans are expert explorers of the world. As collaborators it is our job to provide the materials, tools and experiences that deepen those explorations into a project. We help students make their ideas come to life in a way that expands their concept of what is possible. Our youngest students work on group projects that grow from their play and exploration. This group work provides a rich platform to practice social emotional skills as well as a context for academics.
For our youngest, the cycle of exploration, expression and exposition could happen in a day, week or month. These groups don’t adhere to the three month arc cycle in the same way that other groups might. At Expo Night, often several of the projects gathered from the whole arc will be on display.
Upper Elementary – more defined and rigorous expectations for the Expo portion. (Ellen)
Plug in the project based bits here
- Specific Academic Approach: Core Subjects
While WyldFlower Learning community focuses on the development of the whole child and their pursuit of their passions and interests, we view the tradition academic area as necessary in succeeding no matter what profession is chosen. In light of understanding childhood development, we take a developmentally appropriate approach when engaging children in these areas. We also value life-long learning and understand that a person who finds joy in different skills, will want to use those skills to develop further as an individual.
We do not put children through formal or summative assessments as data shows this undermines their own intrinsic motivation and joy in these subject areas. Rather we observe, document and give children challenges that make them utilized these different skill sets and knowledge to complete these complex tasks and projects. Our goal is to approach all areas with joy and excitement and then present and share out what we’ve learned and created.
Like every subject, math is extremely interesting. By approaching it in a developmentally appropriate way, students will discover the joy of math and how it helps us in everyday life. The basics of arithmetic along with measurement, graphing, probability, fractions, decimals, time telling, and shapes (among other topics) all are learned through collaborative approaches. Engineering projects, adult led challenges, and science labs are just a few ways that students will need to utilize these skills.
Students will be immersed in an environment where reading is all around them. Read – Alouds, Literacy Centers, and Self-Directed time will give students ample opportunities to delve into interesting stories, technical documents, biographical books and more. Community members will be invited in as guest readers.
Through projects, guided activities, and individual time, students will enhance their ability to communicate through written form. Part of functioning in WyldFlower learning community is by being able to document their own learning experience. This makes writing relevant and useful, not abstract and laborious. We will work on increasing language and vocabulary development through multiple modes as well with every age level through concrete and conversational methods. Words open worlds to students. During our literacy hour, students not only learn to love the written word they build strategies to increase their independence as readers and writers.
Students intrinsically want to know where they come from and how they got to where they are. This is the foundation in which students will be immersed into history. Instead of focusing on historical facts that are forced upon all students at the same time, we approach history in an interesting and useful way. Students will understand how we can use history as a blueprint for understanding how societies and governments behave, what structures have worked in the past and which have fallen, and what lessons we can use to help us move forward.
- Enrichment Courses (The Arts, SEL, and Health)
- The Arts:
The arts are naturally interesting to all students. We provide a rich environment in which the arts and music are abundant. This is also where we take the research on adult modeling seriously. Throughout the week, times are set aside for both Art and Music Exploration. Staff members model the joy of music and art by participating in their own projects while the students observe, ask questions, and help. Students are then guided in their own pursuits as staff give feedback, ask questions that lead to greater understanding, and challenge students to reach the next level. Students who want to pursue a more formal approach will have the support by staff. Teachers and lessons will be scheduled, or staff members will work with students using online programs.
Through allowing adequate time for play, most if not all of the daily activity students need is met. Staff members do, however, provide opportunities for students to engage in specific games and activities to allow for opportunities for team games and activities they might not otherwise be exposed to. If students opt out of these activities, they still have a mandatory time of being active outside for at least 60 minutes each day. (Weather Permitting)
- Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
We will utilize aspects of Ruler and Zones of Regulation curriculum. This is also where play has its power. Research strongly suggests that the rise of anxiety, depression and lack of certain social skills in youth today are due in large part to the sharp decline in play in the past decades. Through play children develop the social skills required for being resilient, assertive, empathetic, collaborative, and effective risk-takers. All of these skills are crucial for development into adulthood and, as studies show, aren’t gained to the extent that play provides in more structured programs. Instead of adults are leading the experiences and controlling the interactions, children learn true independence and responsibility when they are allowed to develop their own culture and mini-society.
This being said, there is a role for adults. Knowledgeable staff members see the opportunities where intervention from a more experienced member of the community can help with the development of all the skills listed above. Through facilitating conflict resolution and making sure students are meeting WyldFlowers rules, all students will have a mentor/coach helping them develop interpersonal skills needed to be successful in the 21st century.
On top of self-driven opportunities where children interact freely and naturally learn social skills, WyldFlower will offer classes that provide opportunities to specifically focus on certain social/emotional skills.
Research based practices including yoga, mindfulness, and health will be provided for all ages by trained instructors. Learning trips and outdoor time gives students knowledge and thee time to cultivate well-being. The school environment is structured with healthy and whole child-development at the forefront. By using the distinct pillars as the foundation of the school, we are immediately addressing what can cause anxiety, stress, apathy, bullying, and detachment from others. By being in a caring and healthy environment everyday, our students develop the habits of mind that will carry them into adulthood.