An Essential Elementary School Explains Itself to Visitors

Visitors to Earth School classrooms are welcomed with a simple flier that explains the school’s philosophy, and asks them to look around for signs of how children at the school are learning. For example, it says, “Do you see evidence” of:

Young readers, writers, and mathematical reasoners at work?
Books arranged invitingly in the room, easy to take out and put away
A variety of books (fiction, nonfiction, reference, easy, difficult, student-made)
Words at work (print on the walls of the room, labeling classroom objects)
Graphs, charts and other math work displayed n Materials that children can use to help them understand math concepts

Themes that give depth and unity to classroom studies?
Books, charts, student work with a common focus
Art projects, cooking, and music related to this focus n Large-scale projects that look like they have been going on for days
Photographs, art, class books about trips in the neighborhood and city

Children working independently?
A place in the room for each child’s individual storage
Areas where children can work on their own
A schedule for the day posted in the room so children know what to expect
Supplies stored so that children can get what they need to do their work

Children working cooperatively?
A place in the room where the whole class can sit together and talk
Tables arranged so groups of children can work together
A chart of class jobs
Older children helping younger children
Children helping each other solve problems

Children making choices?
A variety of activities going on at the same time
Materials (such as computers) that invite children to explore and find out more

Teachers supporting and extending children’s efforts?
Children’s work displayed attractively on the walls of the room
Small groups working with teachers on specific challenges
Folders, notebooks, or other systems to individualize assignments
Teachers questioning, encouraging, and praising children