Children are the heart of the John Winthrop School. From the layout of the classrooms to the way teachers engage the children, every aspect of the school day is designed to help children abilities to learn the cognitive, social, physical, and language skills they need. The JWS educational philosophy is guided by the following six principles:
1. A child’s interests and “need to know” motivate learning
Children strive to make sense of their world. They yearn to understand their relationships with others, the way things work, and the everyday phenomena that take place around them. Meaningful learning takes place when we tap into children’s questions and wonders. The John Winthrop curriculum encourages children to engage in a natural cycle of developing questions and discovering answers as they play and explore. Teachers take their cues from the children’s interests and tap into their enthusiasm to create learning opportunities.
2. Children are active participants in their learning
Children understand their world through touching, smelling, tasting, filling, dumping, smudging, creating, destroying, standing, falling, trying, failing, and succeeding—all of which entail a child’s full engagement. The activities in our classrooms offer a wide range of sensory exploration and active play.
3. Children learn through social interactions with adults and other children
Social interactions that call for reciprocity, mutual respect, and cooperation challenge children to consider beliefs, ideas, and emotions other than their own. John Winthrop teachers work to help children see the perspectives of others by helping them understand their own feelings and the feelings of other children. Teachers model positive social interactions by treating each child with respect and acknowledging their full range of emotions.
4. Children learn as they engage with their environment
Teachers work to facilitate a classroom environment that is continually stimulating, conducive to children’s explorations, and in line with the developmental needs of individual children as well as the group. Decisions regarding materials, activities, routines, and room arrangement are made in response to children’s needs and interests.
5. Establishing a safe environment allows the child to take appropriate risks
Safe furnishings and materials, trusting and responsive relationships with adults, and respect for each other’s feelings set the tone for each classroom. When school is a safe place, children can operate with confidence to pursue their “need to know.” At John Winthrop they can do so with all of their feelings—excitement, curiosity, fear, anticipation, even confusion—because they know they will be safe and cared for whether their risk-taking yields success or falls short of their expectations.
6. Each child has an individual pattern and timing of growth
While we all develop along a predictable path—we learn how to walk before we can run—there is great variation in the pattern and timing of each person’s growth and development. Similarly, children learn to walk, talk, or read at varying ages, at their own pace, and in the way that makes sense to them, in accordance with their individual learning styles. By welcoming each child’s unique abilities, we allow every John Winthrop child to learn and explore at his or her own pace.