Schools That Are Making It Happen

Although not a school, and not even initially in the U.S., one of the most amazing examples of whole child learning is the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra and Chorus Program, El Sistema. The lives of poor children are transformed through the rigorous, free training they receive that enables them to make music. From the beginning they learn to play in groups and learn skills and discipline that will serve them well in later life, even if they do not go on in music. The DVD Tocar y Luchar provides a most gratifying glimpse into this remarkable, holistic program. This program, now beginning in American cities, is important not just because it compensates through an after-school program for inadequate regular school work, but because it shows a way to overcome the tremendous impact of poverty on school performance.

The following are some of the public schools that have been able to approach learning holistically and still meet or exceed accountability targets. If charter schools were included, the list would be much longer.

Graciela Garcia Elementary School in Pharr, Texas, became the first Whole Child Certified School on February 15, 2016. This remarkable dual language school also holds the International Baccalaureate designation.

Mission Hill School in Boston, founded by Deborah Meier, serves about 190 K–8 children. Despite having a high percentage of kids on free and reduced lunch, this school has a well-earned international reputation for changing lives. VIEW THE LATEST VIDEO INSTALLMENT OF THE FILM A YEAR AT MISSION HILL.

Lagunitas School District in Marin County, California, includes Montessori, Waldorf-inspired, and Open Classroom schools. The Open Classroom is a small school in a rural setting and is featured in the new documentary, August to June.

The Lab School for Creative Learning in Fort Collins, Colorado, stresses creativity in all classes and incorporates ideas from the Educating for Human Greatness work of Lynn Stoddard.

Byck Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky, provides a good example of a Waldorf-inspired school.

Rebecca Johnson School in Springfield, Massachusetts, is another partner school. Operating in an urban setting with mainly minority students, this Pre-K–5 school has had a great deal of success with its arts emphasis.

Monadnock Community Connections School near Keene, New Hampshire, is a small choice high school with an exuberant approach to individualized and creative learning. Sam Chaltain describes it in American Schools: the Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community, pp. 131-145.

The Key Learning Community in Indianapolis takes Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and applies it to their K-12 classes and activities. An excellent video on this appears at:

With thanks for support and encouragement from The Myrin Institute and Orion magazine.