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Think Small, Dream Big: How Microschools empower education

What is a Microschool?

A microschool is a small-scale alternative to the traditional classroom experience. Picture a cozy enclave that accommodates a handful of students, and a fusion of age groups, guided by a single teacher or, in some cases, a small team of dedicated educators, fostering an environment of intimacy and exploration. While the specific curriculum may vary, core subjects such as mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies form the bedrock of the educational journey. Some microschools, like Madrona Village School, (MVS) have a multi-age classroom, which facilitates cross-age interactions, and nurtures peer mentorship, but what truly sets microschools apart is a commitment to customization. Within the confines of these microcosms, teachers can dedicate themselves to fostering both group and one-on-one connections, adapting their teaching methods to suit different learning styles and paces.

Why are Microschools becoming so prevalent?

In a post-pandemic world, families have become increasingly discerning when it comes to their children's education. Microschools, with their innovative structure, have emerged as a beacon of hope, addressing the pressing needs of the present era for several compelling reasons: Traditional public-school models, plagued by overwhelmed teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and a dearth of support for students' social and emotional well-being, have left families yearning for alternatives. With private education in Seattle commanding fees of up to $45,000 per year, and homeschooling demanding immense dedication from parents, Microschools offer a refreshing blend of classical principles and evolved methodologies. They can adapt seamlessly to the ever-changing educational landscape, providing a cost-effective, community-oriented, and deeply personalized approach.

What is it like running a microschool?

Running a microschool is a daily voyage of creativity and challenges. As the director of MVS, our small-scale allows me to forge close bonds with teachers, parents, our learning support specialist, board members, and community leaders. Ideas can be put into practice quickly. Concerns can be addressed immediately. Innovation can happen in real time. Future planning can be collaborative; for instance, this month, parents are uniting to build a greenhouse for the Fall, to further foster our student's connection with Tom Kushner, Madrona's Forest Steward, who will be teaching them propagation. Lead teacher Lindsay Eicher will use the greenhouse to teach Botany. And the structure itself will provide room for MVS' rising 4th and 5th graders to expand into a new space.

Why is public service so important for a microschool?

Microschools thrive on utilizing preexisting community infrastructure and integrating with the surrounding public spaces. For example, the Madrona Playground is a mere stone's throw away from MVS, where our students enjoy unstructured play at recess, and greet their human and animal friends that share the park on the same daily schedule. Purchasing treats at the Golden Wheat Bakery offers a delightful way to enhance Spanish and math skills through interacting with the Spanish-speaking owners. Sally Goldmark Library offers a haven on rainy days, and a trove of knowledge and resources. Recognizing this symbiotic relationship our school shares with the community, MVS reciprocates through service projects and neighborhood upkeep. For two years now, our students have regularly picked up trash in the neighborhood and have dedicated their bimonthly Fridays to the restoration of the Madrona Woods, combing through the undergrowth, learning about ecology, clearing the debris, and planting new trees.

Why is community engagement an integral facet for the success of a Microschool?

Engagement with the local community is a vital aspect for a neighborhood Microschool. Take a deep dive into the vibrant tapestry of Madrona, and students can unearth a treasure trove of stories—from the tales of shopkeepers to historical landmarks, not to mention the enchanting natural wonder of the woods. It is within this rich tapestry that MVS students find their educational connections, embarking on hands-on projects, collaborating with the local businesses, organizations, and experts that grace the Madrona landscape. By bridging the gap between the classroom and the community, students not only enrich their educational experience but also cultivate a profound understanding of the world, develop essential skills, and foster a strong sense of civic responsibility.

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