Introduction to Our Model

Arts & Ideas Sudbury School is modeled after Sudbury Valley School, the first school of its kind, founded in 1968. At A&I, students and staff run the school together through a democratic structure in which every staff and student has one vote in every decision made. With no curriculum, no required academics, no testing and a daily schedule left up to each student to decide for themselves, students at A&I are free to learn, explore, and reflect at their own pace in a manner that work best for them.

Our viewpoint is that children are already amazing people. They are driven to explore life and all of its many complexities. Our humble goal is to do no harm and to trust children to find the path that works for them.

The natural mode of learning for children is play. Play is their way to model reality. Just as scientists work with models to study features within systems, children play with the features of their lives in order to understand them as parts of a larger whole. Along the way, they practice communication, problem-solving, leadership, and creativity, as well as reading, writing, and math.

As they play and learn, children also practice how to express and cope with the range of human emotions. They learn from their own experiences and help each other journey through moments of joy, sadness, compassion, anger, and other strong emotions that can take years to master.

How do we know all this? Because we see this every day at our school. Our children are given the freedom to be children and, thus, they learn to be adults. They make their own decisions about what to do and how to fit into their own authentic community.

What do children do at our school? They are playing, socializing, thinking, observing, planning events, and doing projects of their own. They may be engaged in gymnastics, programming, fort-building, mathematics, painting, video editing, musical instrument playing, woodworking, writing, dancing, storytelling, history, reading, Minecraft-ing, and whatever else strikes their fancy at the moment. Learning is highly individualized and varies from person to person and from moment to moment.

Regardless of the specific activities our children pursue, what they are truly learning is how to learn. This core learning explains how generations of Sudbury students, many of whom have never taken a formal class, thrive both at college and in the working world. They have learned how to focus, how to explore, how to ask questions, how to master something that interests them, and how to take failure, as well as success, in stride as steps towards achieving their own goals.

The students and staff are all members of the school community. They learn from one another. The staff ensure that the school environment is safe, appropriately supportive, and run in a democratic fashion. All school members have equal rights, which means having equal voice in both making the rules and adjudicating them. Students of all ages take this process seriously, and their ensuing discussions balance the needs of the community with compassion for their peers, leading to respectful outcomes for all involved.

Read on to lean how we honor children and their amazing (but not unusual!) capacity to create and engage in meaningful learning experiences. Alternative education takes a whole new meaning at our school with our focus on learning instead of teaching.