The Prudence Island Schoolhouse is a place where:
- students are empowered to take an active role in their own education, working side-by-side with peers, students of different ages, teachers and community members in a supportive island setting.
- learning is an active adventure and creative expression is an integral part of the curriculum.
- excited, engaged students challenge not only themselves but each other, as children of different ages create, collaborate, learn and grow together in mutually beneficial ways.
- student’s individual strengths, weaknesses, interests and learning styles are respected and embraced, serving as the foundation for a unique learning experience for each member of the school community.
- students at all levels are pushed and supported to do more than they think they can. Excellence is expected in the quality of their work and their thinking.
- mastery and joy of learning are the goals. The students are focused on learning, rather than on letter grades, and basic skills are viewed as tools leading to further knowledge, not as ends in themselves.
- students are held to high standards – rigorous projects meet state standards and, at the same time, are connected to real-world needs, allowing them to see the relevance of their learning.
- students care — about themselves, about their community, and about the world. Respect for one another and taking responsibility for one’s actions are integral parts of the school experience.
- students are expected to be role-model/mentors to one another and representatives of our school within the larger community.
- strong personal relationships that grow over time support learning, risk-taking, and personal growth.
- teachers (educators) are facilitators who also come to learn and model learning.
- frequent dialogue serves to guide and focus students throughout the day, providing ample attention for each student. This allows teachers/educators the opportunity to reflect on and respond to the abilities and needs of each child.
- Leadership skills are fostered as students help one another.
- Independence and self-reliance are encouraged. Students are guided to think for themselves.
- Students emotional growth and support are considered integral parts of their successful educational experience.
- The supportive island community, organizations and natural habitats serve as invaluable resources for our students.
The schoolhouse is set up as a multi-functional space. Students have an interactive learning environment as they work side-by-side on academics and projects. Shared learning stations result in enhanced team-building among students and staff as they work together, exchange ideas, and ask each other for help. The community takes an active role in this process, volunteering and supporting projects and activities.
Everyone who is in the building at 10:00 am (including children, staff, volunteers, parents) participates in daily creative journal writing in an encouraging and supportive environment. Everyone writes on the same topic (chosen by a different member of the school community each day) and then shares with the group. This provides the opportunity for reluctant writers to share in a safe place and more seasoned writers to provide good examples. All gain some presentation experience in the process.
Lunchtimes are a community-building time. There is planning for projects, sharing of ideas and experiences, discussions about the movie making, upcoming fieldtrips or the newspaper, and general encouragement, laughter, and camaraderie. Fridays are cooking days, and there are usually several visitors for lunch – parents, volunteers, the Intriguing Islander of the month (or another subject of an article in the Prudence Wave) are often invited to join in.
Secondary students meet weekly individually with their education coordinator to review curricular requirements from the previous week and discuss work for the coming week. The students learn to take responsibility for their own schedules, assignments and projects. We are able to differentiate this process depending on student ability, interests, learning style and goals. Students are able to explore particular areas of interest.
Each elementary student is teamed up with a teen “buddy”. They stay together on field trips and are responsible for helping each other whenever necessary. During all-school projects the teens are responsible for making sure their buddies understand the content at an accessible level, which requires them to fully grasp the material in order to teach it to the younger ones.
Students also have access to NBNERR. This gives them the unique opportunity to learn alongside the scientists and educators at the research reserve, whose specialties include upland habitat restoration, invasive species studies, shoreline populations, bay wildlife, and marsh and estuary research.
The students create an original full-length movie each year. They develop the plot, write the script, draw up the story boards, create the costumes, contact community members to be in the film and are actors in the film. They film, and are responsible for sound and music, some editing and advertising. This project has become central to the students’ integrated curriculum addressing many of the RI state standards while further connecting them to the Island community.