City Neighbors

Baltimore, MD

The learning environment in City Neighbors schools deserves special recognition because it has been achieved despite formidable challenges, especially entrenched poverty, and lack of funding for innovative educational programs and practices. Programmatic excellence and pedagogical expertise are evident throughout the City Neighbor Schools. Three specific characteristics make the schools distinctive:

The first distinctive element is the commitment to Reggio Emilia teaching and learning philosophies. Although this approach is usually associated with early grades, the principles can be applied through high school. Having children construct their own learning is a core Reggio concept that informs much of what goes on in the City Neighbor Schools. This teaching method helps children find their place in the world. One way this is done is through art and individual expression. City Neighbors Schools are resplendent in art, and the very same art infuses the curriculum in a thoughtful and deliberate ways at all grade levels. Staff, students, and parents at these schools warmly and freely mention that they are “Reggio Emilia Inspired.” In no small part this inspiration can be felt through students’ artful expression in every classroom and common space.

A second distinctive element leads to powerful educational interactions in the high school. Each grade 9-12 student attends a daily meeting of a class called a “pod.” In a city where the streets are among the most dangerous in the United States, this pod can become a student’s safe place. Students gather daily with their pod mates and teacher/advisor. They may be seen engaging in important guided discussions, working on projects, helping other students, or just catching a breath. The students and teachers display incredible levels of trust and compassion discussing the difficult and painful realities of being a teen in a dangerous inner city.

The third distinctive element is Personalized Learning. The K-12 commitment to knowing children and their families well affects every facet of the school day, supporting teaching from the heart and the building of trusting, authentic relationships. Instruction is adjusted to take into account the growth of children from dependency to increasing autonomy. Students are given extensive control over the direction of their learning and engage in many learning experiences by touching, moving, listening, and observing.

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Commitment to Reggio Emilia philosophy K-12

Extensive student control over the direction of their learning

Learning engagements through physical experiences

A focus on relationship building

Arts integration

A focus on parent and school collaboration