The foundations of learning that are laid in elementary school can have a significant impact on your child’s development, both intellectually and socially. As a parent, it is up to you to select the style of education that will be the best fit for your child and family. With this important decision weighing on your shoulders, you’re probably doing as much research as you can: cross-examining mission statements and learning tenets of each school, closely observing your child’s strengths, needs, and interests, and ultimately trying to find the elementary school that will best benefit your little one.
As a first step, you may want to understand the basic difference between a traditional and an alternative elementary school education. Robert Kennedy of The Private School Review reports that one distinguishing factor between these two approaches is that alternative elementary schools allow children to work in a self-directed method and at their own pace, while traditional schools expect all students to be simultaneously engaged in the same activity. At the core of this comparison, you can see the enormous philosophical difference between a traditional and an alternative elementary school education: alternative schools give students autonomy in their education. They give children of all learning styles the chance to have an integrated, active role in their schooling. This chart, compiled by the National Association of Independent Schools, is very comprehensive in outlining the differences between traditional vs. “progressive,” or alternative, educational methods.
Non-traditional early childhood teaching styles such as Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia originated in Europe in the early to mid-20th century, and have become increasingly popular in the United States among parents who believe in their alternative ethos. In contrast to the prevailing method of early childhood education, which values drills and memorization to retain facts, these alternative models let children self-direct their learning through exploration and discovery, and place a belief in children’s individual capabilities and curiosities. The ultimate goal of these modern educational philosophies is to promote a more harmonious and peaceful environment. Our alternative elementary school in Connecticut, Riverside Magnet School, demonstrates these very benefits of a progressive, Reggio-Emilia style education.
As a Reggio magnet school, Riverside gives children control over the direction of their learning and encourages endless opportunities for expression through touching, moving, listening, seeing and hearing. Here, we support children’s relationships with other children, adults (including teachers, parents, and others in the school community), and their surrounding environment.
The Reggio Emilia approach is ingrained into Riverside Magnet School in so many ways, making our curriculum truly one-of-a-kind. Here are four ways in which our Reggio, alternative elementary school stands out:
- The school environment. By filling the halls with natural light, Riverside offers an inviting space for children to learn. Creativity is encouraged through different types of spaces made for exploration, including an outdoor playground and an art studio. Social skills are strengthened within community areas, where children and families come together. In the Reggio Emilia method, the great “teacher” for children is the environment, which is what makes an alternative elementary school’s setting so important. Riverside Magnet School helps to promote this type of learning with its welcoming and flexible spaces.
- Through family participation. Developing relationships with adults and the community is an important component of alternative learning methods. As a Reggio Emilia school, Riverside offers various opportunities for child and family interaction right within school bounds. From family nights to community events and parent workshops, Riverside Magnet School supports and values participation of the entire family in our students’ education.
- With hands-on expression. The after-school program at Riverside Magnet School, called the Studio, is geared towards enhancing the interactive, alternative learning methods practiced in the school’s daily curriculum. Through musical exploration, outdoor experiences, hands-on building activities, and a variety of art projects, Riverside Magnet School students use their many languages to create, connect, and communicate. Through the Studio Program, children learn, have fun, and enjoy constructive after-school time.
- By partnering with the community. Riverside Magnet School is committed to finding and partnering with neighborhood resources. Organizations and businesses such as the local Public Library and Home Depot, as well as Arts for Learning in Hamden, CT, help us to provide unique and enriching experiences for our students, who through the Reggio Emilia style approach, learn about contributing to and collaborating with their local community.
In setting and meeting its magnet standard goals, Riverside Magnet School folds the development of community-minded, cooperative individuals into our elementary education, and helps to create a brighter future by molding tomorrow’s leaders in a positive way. As an alternative elementary school, Riverside Magnet operates non-traditionally with your child’s interests at the center of its ethos.
To learn about the benefits of magnet schools, or to see if our alternative elementary school program could be a fit for your little one, please contact us today. You may also schedule a parent information session by clicking here.