How We Learn
Innovative and experiential
At its center, a Walden education is dynamic, innovative and experiential. We value the in-depth processes that lead to understanding and lay a foundation that encourages students to be both curious and critical thinkers about learning, their community and our world. These values are explored through child-led inquiry, Socratic discussion, daily or weekly contracts, collaboration and other teaching methods.
Our curriculum and activities take place in multiyear groups that offer children the opportunity to grow and develop at their own pace without being held to a specific age or grade level. Within this framework, we maintain a key underpinning from the founding of the school: to provide a developmentally appropriate program.
As a result of mission-consistent practices and expectations, the faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees have established these school-wide learning outcomes. Our graduates are:
Articulate and Forthright
Students have the breadth and depth of vocabularies to say or demonstrate what they mean and the conviction and courage to live accordingly.
Respectful of Others
Students understand the Walden Agreements, and their actions are consistently guided by them. They develop respectful relationships and value differences. They believe that others have wisdom, stories, information and suggestions that can support their intellectual growth and personal well-being. Students demonstrate altruism, kindness, empathy, responsibility and graciousness, and use positive conflict-resolution skills.
Students are able to critically consider and evaluate the lessons they learn and the choices they make. Their judgment and understanding are guided and informed by a deepening understanding of how context, habit and experience affect their perception of truth or fact.
Resilient and Persevering
Students are realistic when faced with challenges. They are aware of their academic and social strengths and needs, and seek ways to both contribute to and learn from others. They persevere to achieve excellence, while demonstrating resilience and optimism in the process.
Academically Capable and Insightful
Students demonstrate mastery of traditional academic skills and apply them to a variety of situations in creative, insightful ways. They can articulate their understanding and apply that knowledge with wisdom as they make choices.
Students develop a true love of learning. They value their own interests and pursue them with passion and determination. As students discover the inter-relatedness of what they learn, they are inspired to find deeper answers to their questions.
Students understand that the principles basic to the well-being of individuals apply globally as well. They understand that, just as with personal relationships, the well-being of a community and the earth is directly affected by their individual choices, words and actions over time.
Teaching children to value and respect diversity
Multi-age learning is part of the overall approach to a Walden education. Most of the classes are multi-age, wherein we place children who are more than one year apart in age into the same classroom. This purposeful configuration is based on the understanding that each child’s progress and growth is unique.
Benefits of a multi-age classroom include children having the opportunity to be role models, practice their skills by demonstrating them to other students, experience continuity from year to year by staying with the same teacher, work collaboratively and cooperatively in groups, and learn to respect their peers’ abilities within the wide spectrum of learners.
Although some years not every child will be placed in a multi-age classroom, all children will have experiences each year that carry the benefits of multi-age practices. Each classroom has a “buddy class” with whom they interact throughout the year. These buddy classes are deliberately set up to combine younger and older children. Picture-book reading, art projects, family-style meals and community-service activities are a few ways in which buddy classes interact.
One of the most important and exciting roles that our sixth graders take on is that of a mentor. Each sixth grader works closely with a different classroom at least once a week to share their skills and experiences. These sixth graders become members of their mentee classroom as if they were regular students.
Daily recess and snack times also provide moments where many different ages interact, sharing their interests.
Laying the foundation for wisdom
A core group is made up of multiple grade levels. There are four core groups that make up the Walden experience: Lower, Middle, Upper, and Specialty.
The Lower Core is comprised of the Pre-Kindergarten through Kindergarten/First Grades. The Middle Core is comprised of the Second and Third Grades. The Upper Core is made up of the Fourth through Sixth Grades. The Specialty Core is comprised of Art, Dance, Library, Music, Physical Education (P.E.), Science, Spanish, and Storytelling classes.
These designations offer a chance for the teachers to plan and develop curriculum together and continually discuss ‘best practices’ for the developmental age levels that they teach. These Core groups of teachers meet formally once a week and informally daily.