At River Rock School we embrace the whole person, and we place high priority on self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. We provide challenging academic programs and we provide time for children to get to know themselves and explore their true interests. Chris Mercogliano, who was an integral part of The Albany Free School for thirty years, affirms this approach in his book, Making it Up as We Go Along: When children have the freedom to know themselves, like themselves and belong to themselves, academic learning requires amazingly little time. We have found, over and over again, that when these issues are given sufficient value and attention, academic learning tends to flow like water.
River Rock School is able to teach a wide variety of students because it creates a generous, tolerant, non-judgmental environment where students can explore who they are and what they love to do; children are free to experiment, play, embrace and reveal their rich imaginations, and express themselves.
The method of instruction at RRS is called emergent curriculum. Simply stated this means that part of what gets studied and discussed are things that the children are interested in exploring. This does not mean the teacher has no influence or input. There is collaboration. The teacher observes and listens to the children as they explore and engage with the wide range of materials and opportunities available at RRS, and discerns what interests the children based on their choices, comments and questions. From this, curriculum is developed. Learning is seen as a whole experience rather than a series of distinct compartments. For example, a study of butterflies might incorporate science, history, number concepts, word skills, painting, drawing, photography and more. Within each of these areas, then, academic skills are developed within the matrix of enthusiasm and inspiration created by student/teacher-generated projects and areas of inquiry.
Our School Day
While a schedule outlines our days, some of the quality of our days is described in A Day at River Rock. Generally, our day looks like the schedule outlined below, though events may shape a day in different ways.
- 8:30-9 Beginning of Day Meeting: All gather for attendance, announcements, choosing chores for the week, and sharing. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we begin the day with singing.
- 9-10 Activity Time: Children engage in a variety of activitiesdrawing, beading, drama, dance, painting, wax, origami, cardboard and tape, construction and crafts of many kindsindividually or in small groups. The Arts at River Rock gives insight into the quality and intent of this time.
- 10-10:30 Snack and Sharing: While everyone enjoys their mid-morning snack, some students share creations from activity time, or a discussion may evolve from an activity or event of the morning.
- 10:30-11 Outside Time: Outside Time describes the value we place on time spent moving and interacting in the out-of-doors.
- 11-12 Academic Time: At River Rock, children separate into two groups for Academics: East and West, the younger children, and North and South, the older children. Because of our small student-teacher ratio, one-on-one time and small learning groups shape this time, as well as movement between the two groups, in which older students sometimes work with younger children.
- 12-1:15 Lunch and Outside Time: We enjoy lunch as a community, with cloths on our tables and the opportunity to heat up food brought from home. On Fridays, we have a hot lunch prepared by a team of River Rockers and a parent volunteer. After lunch clean-up, we go out of doors.
- 1:15-2:45 Academic Time
- 2:45-3 Clean-up and End of Day Meeting: Each week, children choose their end of day clean-up job, ranging from straightening up the coatroom to taking out the compost bucket! When we meet prior to departing for the day, children share events of the day to put on the daily calendar.
There are many occasions, planned and unplanned, which change the shape of our days.
- Visitors and Field Trips are a part of River Rock culture and enrich the curriculum enormously. We all look forward to and enjoy these rich experiences.
- Drama is a vital part of River Rock life. Our daily schedule changes to accommodate two yearly productions, and we enjoy bringing our spring show to the public (see Events calendar). When rehearsals are under way in earnest, the vibrant learning and growth are palpable.
- Council Meetings are a vital part of River Rock culture used to resolve conflict, develop rules, and problem-solve challenging situations. A council meeting is never called lightly, but can be called at any time by anyone. They are a powerful tool for community building, and individual learning and growth.