Thursday, March 03, 2011

some things you have to see for yourself

As we all know, there is a difference between knowing something "as it was presented" and knowing something "first hand" in which the experience is our own. That is the cutting edge between real learning and the schooling we settle for in American education. The same thing is true for creating an understanding of what I have come to know as the experience of Clear Spring School. In order to really get it, one needs the experience of being there, and even I, who should be used to it by now, tend to be affected by the overwhelming gentleness of it all.

Every few years we go through the process of re-accreditation with ISACS, the Independent Schools of the Central States, part of NAIS,  the National Association of Independent Schools. The process requires an examination of our school, from the very top, to the very bottom, and it's a lengthy one, requiring three years, start to finish. So it seems that just when we get done and have a breathing spell, we are at it again, making sure that Clear Spring School measures up, is true to its mission, and is the best that we can be. That process begins with an examination of the mission statement, the vision and the philosophy of the school.

As long as I've been associated with Clear Spring School, we have talked about "the Clear Spring Way" which is a catch phrase that covers many of those things which we assume visitors, students and staff, can see or experience for themselves. We know it includes both an academic component and one that involves character. We are discussing it among teachers and students in order to nail down exactly what it means. It will be interesting to hear from many of the students what they think of as "the Clear Spring Way." If you visit the campus, you will see evidence that something is different. You will see the children all playing together, in all grades. You will see special bonds of affection and trust formed between first graders and students in high school. You will see interpersonal problems solved without intervention, and you will see self-motivated educational enthusiasm at all levels.

In the photo at left, as we observed a high school chemistry experiment, you can see curious 2nd grade students looking on. After a time, other lower elementary school children had gathered in to nest in laps of some of the high school girls, a common thing at CSS, where age rarely gets in the way of learning. The high school students often present their chemistry findings to the scholars in the lower grades.

And so I can do my best to describe that for you. But there are some things you would have to see for yourself. When the hands-on connection is made, learning is at its deepest level, greater educational enthusiasm is brought to bear, and what you learn sticks like glue.  DIY and teach it yourself, too. Your own children are likely missing something very important, their creative problem solving capacity. Make, fix and create.


  1. I think it says something about a school that teaches children to care about eachother in addition to the content. This happens when character is a part of a school's philosophy. I'm convinced from having worked in a Character 1st school that higher achievemnent is a result of this. Unfortunately, not a lot of people get this.

  2. I also learn by doing, but find that I learn the fullest by teaching others. There is some benefit to having older grades participate in teaching younger grades.

    I am concerned that our institutions are being run by people educated in a process that includes very little "hand-on" experience.

  3. David, I agree. If you really want to learn something, try teaching it. The older students show the younger ones that it is cool to be interested in things. And the older ones by teaching, learn very well.

    Not every high school student fits this kind of program. We have a remarkable group.

    Chris, I had not been aware of Character 1st which looks like an interesting program. Thanks for mentioning it. The standardized testing in schools does not address those things that are most important to a child's success. Sadly. And if children cannot control their own behavior, all else in education suffers.