I believe that children learn best when they take an active role in shaping their own education. Those activities that are intrinsically interesting and satisfying to a child are most likely those that best meet the child's needs. For this reason, I attempt to give children as many choices as possible. Children at Zimtor are free to choose their own activities for much of the day, and are encouraged but not required to participate in group activities. The only cases in which I would generally limit children's choices are those where health and safety are involved or where the rights of others are likely to be violated.
For choices to be meaningful, children must have a wealth of activities to choose from. Each day at Zimtor, activities are offered in language arts, mathematics, science, music, fine arts, dramatic expression, and movement. In addition, many multi-disciplinary activities are offered. For example, children often have the opportunity to cook using a pictorial recipe, an activity that involves aspects of language arts, mathematics, and science.
I place great emphasis on discovery and creativity. Many of my classroom activities attempt to pose questions for children to answer through experimentation. Other activities simply provide materials for children to explore freely. In general, children in my classes may use materials in any way that is constructive and safe.
I believe that cooperation, rather than competition, brings out the best in each person. Children at Zimtor are encouraged to work together in every activity, and many classroom activities are designed to foster cooperation specifically. In particular, all sports and games at Zimtor attempt to involve every child in some collective goal.
I believe that the best and most engaging education involves exposure to a wide range of ideas. For this reason, I encourage a free exchange of ideas and embrace controversial topics. For example, a unit on comparative religion is a regular part of my curriculum. Every idea is welcomed at Zimtor as long as it is expressed in a responsible way.
Many decisions that directly affect the classroom are made by consensus of the entire class. Children at Zimtor take part in developing curriculum, making classroom rules, and planning special events. I take part in these decisions too, of course, but my emphasis is on reaching decisions through a collaborative group process in which everyone is strongly involved. Surprisingly, young children adapt remarkably well to this way of making decisions.
I believe that conflicts can be resolved most effectively by identifying problems clearly, generating solutions creatively, and choosing solutions cooperatively. I am committed to using this approach with both children and parents, and to teaching children how to use this approach to solve their own problems as well.
I make every attempt to treat students as individuals, regardless of any group identity. I expect the same high standards of behavior and achievement of all children. Children who have difficulty meeting these standards are provided extra help until they have fully mastered them.
Several times a year, Zimtor hosts a Community Saturday. All family members of children enrolled at Zimtor are invited to a morning of planned activities followed by a potluck lunch. Community Saturdays are optional, but they are a great way for the families of children at Zimtor to get to know one another and build an extended community.
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi about 1800. Pestalozzi began what were among the first progressive schools in the Western world. His school at Yverdon, established in the early 1800s, was widely admired, and his educational methods have formed the basis for much of modern progressive education.