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Progressive Education

Honoring children’s voices, demonstrating the joy
in learning, and advancing each student in their abilities and skills.

Progressive Education is based on the principle, espoused by John Dewey and others, that education must prepare students for active participation in a democratic, global society. Thus the focus is on raising critical thinkers and inquirers who are active rather than passive learners. The teacher’s job is to nurture and support children’s innate curiosity and desire to learn, fostering internal motivation rather than reliance on external rewards.

The Ideas of John Dewey (1859 - 1952)

Photo of John Dewey, American Philospher and Educator

"When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of self direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy and harmonious..."  John Dewey

John Dewey was an American philosopher and educator who was a pioneer in functional psychology, a proponent of the philosophical movement known as pragmatism, and is the father of progressive education theory. He believed children should take an active part in their learning through hands-on work, and that an experiential curriculum that is relevant to the students' interests is best for teaching the "whole child." He urged educators to "teach the child, not the subject." Many consider Dewey to be among the foremost educators and social reformers of the 20th Century.

Progressive Education as it Relates to Other Methods of Teaching

Progressive teaching at The Children’s School differs from other methods in several important ways. First, it is inquiry and project-based. This means that rather than being handed a set of facts or ideas to be memorized, children are encouraged to create their own meaning through open-ended exploration and discussion.

In an inquiry-based classroom, the role of the teacher is that of facilitator, coach, and fellow learner rather than the one who tells everyone else the right answer or the right way to do something. The project approach means that curriculum unfolds in a connected, integrated way rather than as a series of discrete, unrelated topics. Progressive teaching also is unique in its focus on the whole child as an individual with social and emotional as well as academic needs.

Adolescent sitting cross-legged on top of a desk reading a book.
Photo of historic educator, Carter G. Woodsen

Historic Influences on Progressive Education

"The mere imparting of information is not education...Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to begin with life as they find it and make it better."  Carter G. Woodson

What Makes The Children's School Unique

The progressive philosophy is concerned with both the students’ academic growth and their social-emotional well-being. That's why on a daily basis, our faculty work with the children to challenge them academically, support their social and emotional development, and celebrate their accomplishments. We implement a diverse curriculum and encourage each child to develop their intellectual curiosity each day.

The Children’s School is committed to:

  • An integrated project-based curriculum that aligns with local, state, and national academic standards.

  • Experiential learning that encourages hands-on, cooperative experiences.

  • Critical thinking, problem-solving, and intrinsic motivation.

  • Challenging students to take personal and social responsibility, and to respect their own and others’ values.

  • Facilitating children’s exposure to civic engagement projects and ideals.

  • Assessing student’s skills and knowledge in a developmentally appropriate way without reliance on test scores.

  • Developing students who are confident with leadership skills.

  • Child-centered learning that honors small class sizes and low student teacher ratios.

  • Providing multi-age, collaborative experiences for all students.

  • Encouraging children to investigate, explore, question, and discuss.

  • Respect for children’s unique learning styles.

  • Welcoming parents/guardians as partners in teaching.

  • Supporting lifelong learning

Young child with muddy hands, playing with mud on a table.

Learn more About Progressive Education from our founder, Daniel P. Ryan, Ed.D.

Photo of progressive education leader, Daniel P. Ryan, Ed.D. with a video play icon.

Learn about the many aspects of Progress Education from our founder, a leader in Progressive Education, Daniel P. Ryan, Ed.D. This video playlist includes talks on: 

  • The Progressive Education Approach

  • The Difference from Other Schools

  • On Standardized Tests

  • Emergent Curriculum

  • Technology and Play-Based Learning

  • Adolescents and Preparation for High School

  • Democracy in Action and Social Justice

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