Melinda Bray, Ed.D., Education Director and Co-Founder
In 1988, while teaching in Switzerland at the International School of Basel, I became fascinated with how people learn. It was my first year out of college, and I encountered 10 year old students who sought to understand concepts, not simply be told procedures and expected to do them correctly. Furthermore, they wanted to use their knowledge in real world applications.
I was hooked! Learning had never been this much fun and meaningful. I created problems for my students to solve, and took them out of the classroom to castles, cathedrals, a cheese factory, etc. We made maps of the city for our scavenger hunt, and on our yearly class ski trips, we studied erosion and tourism in the Alps. We visited Tuscany for a week as we studied the Renaissance. You get the idea; our learning was not confined to the four walls of our classroom.
Now there are names for this: problem-based learning and place-based learning. Back then, I just saw it made sense because my students wanted to think, ask questions, research answers, and discuss their real world findings.
I returned to the USA to earn my doctorate from Vanderbilt University in order to help develop schools where each child is valued and it is understood and honored that they all learn differently. Unfortunately, this still often is not the case; children continue to face overflowing classrooms and teachers often work with between 20-30 students at a time, sometimes more! It is almost impossible to get to know each child individually, let alone develop individualized learning plans and anchored group projects. However, Maria Montessori pioneered many of these concepts almost a century ago, and now is supported by current cognitive research.
Even at schools with smaller faculty-student ratios or that focus on individualized learning, there is still a need to ensure children enjoy learning! That is why we founded Stonecreek; we wanted to create a school where children would find joy and purpose in their learning, and to be encouraged to develop their creativity. We want to foster exploration and trying new ideas, not limit them. Research shows children learn best when they are known, appreciated, and loved. In a small school such as Stonecreek, teachers and administrators alike get to know and understand and support your children. The other side of the small setting is that each child can be challenged intellectually even as their learning interests are supported.