Essential School Qualities in Other Elementary School Philosophies

The Basic School. A comprehensive plan to strengthen elementary education developed under the late Ernest L. Boyer at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Basic School is part philosophy, part blueprint for bringing together all the key components of what Carnegie regards as effective schools. In addition to its larger objective of excellence for all, the Basic School sets five educational goals for students: to communicate effectively; to acquire a core of knowledge while making connections across the disciplines and relating what they learn to life; to be a motivated learner with the skills to gather information and solve problems; to feel a sense of physical, emotional, and social well-being; and to live responsibly.

The Basic School seeks to build a community in which teachers work together and parents are actively involved. And it gives high priority to character education, calling for students to apply the lessons of the classroom to the world around them via the seven “core virtues” of honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion, self-discipline, perseverance, and giving.

The Basic School curriculum is organized around eight integrative themes-“core commonalities,” or universal experiences-that spiral upward from kindergarten to the upper grades. Every traditional subject or academic discipline, Boyer argued, can find a home within these themes: the Life Cycle, the Use of Symbols, Membership in Groups, a Sense of Time and Space, Response to the Aesthetic, Connections to Nature, Producing and Consuming, and Living with Purpose.

The Basic School places great importance on fostering children’s love of learning. Class size is kept small, the teaching schedule is flexible, and student grouping arrangements are varied to promote learning. Beyond a solid academic program, the school provides basic health and counseling services and afternoon and summer enrichment programs for students.

For more information, contact: Basic School Network, James Madison University, 101 Roop Hall, Harrisonburg, VA 22807. Tel.:    (540) 568-7098   (540) 568-7098 ,    (540) 568-3803  (540) 568-3803 (fax); e-mail: bafumome Or read Ernest L. Boyer, The Basic School: A Community for Learning. Ewing, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1995.

The Reggio Emilia approach. This approach to teaching in early childhood and the pre-primary grades, developed in the northern Italian community of Reggio Emilia, has attracted much recent interest in the United States. The curriculum centers around long-term small-group projects that arise from the interests of children; it uses drawing, sculpture, dramatic play, writing and other “symbolic languages” as the means of investigating children’s emerging ideas. Teachers are regarded as both constantly learning themselves and continually documenting the children’s learning; working in classroom pairs, they divide responsibilities so that one can systematically observe, take notes, and record conversations between children. Teachers and parents then use these observations in curriculum planning and evaluation. Reggio Emilia’s approach makes parents, community, and the physical environment central to young children’s education.

For more information, see: Edwards, C., L. Gandini, and G. Forman, eds., The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1993.