When considering the purpose of a classroom, it is necessary to consider the purpose of education itself, especially in a school setting. Aristotle’s concept of Eudaimonia serves as a guide in this regard. Education should reveal, nurture and strengthen an individual’s sense of self as well as her relationship with others and her environment. It is investigating, connecting and reflecting on aspects of self and surroundings leading to action that positively impacts. At its best, education should lead to human flourishing with the individual growing into someone who can affect positive change in the world around him.
Students will leave the classroom with a greater awareness of themselves and their environment. They will have grown in their knowledge of self including strengths and opportunities for growth. Their awareness of their surroundings will also deepen as they begin to notice the underlying relationships that make up their experiences. With newfound understandings and skill development, students will move forward in the world as creative problem solvers who nurture their passions and act with empathy.
Eudaimonia consists of different subcategories that reflect aspects of ourselves and ways of being in the world. We provide opportunities for students to develop in the following areas:
Education should foster autonomy in students. Instead of a focus on delivering content, this requires a responsive curriculum that provides opportunities for student inquiry and choice as to how she will share what she has learned. Students will be encouraged to use the skills and mediums they are passionate about developing as well as challenged to grow in areas that represent opportunities for growth.
- Environmental Mastery
As students work towards environmental mastery, it is important to stress that this is not a relationship of dominion but rather one of integration and regeneration.
The school’s Place-based education approach focuses on the strengths and challenges of a child’s community. By exploring these, students develop a greater “sense of place” in the various communities they inhabit. This involves intentional observation of and interaction with our space, both inside and outside the classroom walls.
Focusing on integration and regeneration moves us beyond simply minimizing our footprint. Instead we are looking for ways to leave things better than how they were found. When looking at the spaces we occupy we will be noting how our spaces function and how we can improve functionality. This might include growing plants to improve the soil on our school grounds or building a water catchment system to catch and store rainwater for later use.
Developing a sense of purpose is also a focus of the curriculum as students are encouraged to act with intentionality, understanding the impact that they can have on others. Authentic projects push students to share their creations with peers and those outside of our classroom and it is this exchange which helps connect them with their community. It is this connection that gives them direction and deepens their desire to be their best selves.
- Personal Growth and Self Acceptance (Growth Mindset)
Risk taking is an essential component of learning. We only really learn what was once unknown or unfamiliar. Academic risk taking can be a challenge for students as some equate being “smart” with providing the right answer causing them to shy away from venturing a guess. Others become trapped in a mindset that is so rigid that they are unable to recognize opportunities for growth, instead deciding that they just aren’t “good” at a subject. When they learn more about the plasticity of the brain and what this means for learning, students begin to embrace the “power of yet” (“I can’t do this yet”) and become more accepting of where they are in their learning journey. This shift in perspective makes them more likely to share their thoughts or try a different approach to their work, more confident that the struggle is often significant of real learning.
- Positive Relationships
One way we foster positive relationships in the classroom is to focus on peace-building. Inherent in this concept is the idea that conflict is a natural occurrence in human interactions and that students can learn how to respond to these situations in a way that defuses the conflict and promotes peace and understanding. This involves learning how to observe conflicts and recognize conflict styles as well as building active listening, negotiation and mediation skills.