Eighty years ago, Miquon was founded in an old farmhouse by two mothers who were disillusioned with their own traditional education and intrigued by the potential of progressive education for their children (the farmhouse serves today as the school office building). The name of the school springs from a legendary meeting between William Penn and the Lenape nation of native Americans who inhabited the area at the time. When Penn held up his goose quill pen, the natives are said to have exclaimed, "mi-quon." The school was literally built by parents as six of the eight buildings were "barn-raised" by parent volunteers.
|Creating, imagining and learning|
We visited third and fourth grade teacher Sarah Walsh, whose enthusiasm for an integrated social studies unit was palpable. In the older grades, the teacher often establishes the curricular themes for the year and launches the unit with specific activities. However, within that framework, the students have a great deal of autonomy and can take the learning in any number of directions depending on their questions and interests. In this case, Sarah was investigating ancient civilizations and the students were divided into four learning groups. The students were in the middle of creating a public works project for their civilization and deciding how to tax their people. Based on what they were discovering about units of currency and population, on occasion, the students needed to change their plans. They were discovering important concepts about economics, governance, culture, and society, framed around Sarah's four essential questions: What is civilization? Why do some civilizations last longer than others? How do you know if a government is good? And, What do you think makes a civilization great? The walls were teeming with student questions, observations, and the discoveries from their group work. I observed a very high level of interest and ownership among the children as they shared their learning with Julia and me.
|The balancing act|
My time at Miquon has been a highlight of my journey to visit progressive schools. I saw a spirit of playfulness, adventure, and discovery; engaged kids having fun and learning concepts and important lessons that will serve them well beyond their time at Miquon. There was such integrity between Julia's descriptions of the school's philosophy and programs and what I observed in the classrooms and on the playground. Julia and the Miquon teachers' good work should be heralded and shared widely - a goal of my project in visiting schools. Miquon is the kind of school I had hoped to find in my travels and it makes me hopeful that our progressive model of education can endure into the future.