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What Is Sudbury School (History, Model and FAQ)

Imagine attending a school where no one instructs you what to do today, where there is no curriculum and hence no class. A school that is run by the students and has no principal, teacher, or even a supervisor. A school where students can even change the rules of the game. A school where kids are free to play whenever and with whomever they like. Can you believe that? This is Sudbury valley school.  

It may seem unbelievable, but the Sudbury school model is now followed by more than a dozen schools worldwide. This article will go through Sudbury Valley schools founded fifty years ago in the United States. If you are interested in learning more about this school, keep reading to the end.

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    student girl

    Sudbury school model

    Most of us assume that a school is where students must learn a great deal of information from the first day of class to the last day of tests. However, many students may be uninterested in a certain subject, resulting in a critical situation in the educational process. 

    The primary purpose of a school is to educate children, but how can we design a school where children are eager to go and learn? Of course, sharing this question with them and involving them in designing and managing schools is the best way to tackle this issue.

    The free school movement, also known as the new schools or alternative schools movement, began in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States to change the goals of formal education through alternative, independent community schools. These schools also had an anti-war and anti-racist ideology. 

    The alternative school movement was so favorably embraced. It grew from 25 schools in 1967 to 600 schools in 1972. Democratic schools were established in the United States during this period. These schools were inspired from Summer Hill School, The first democratic school, founded in 1922 under the direction of A.S.Neil in England. 

    the girl is painting in democratic school

    Democratic schools believed in values ​​such as self-governance in an equal environment, the promotion of justice, and trust in children. Unfortunately, halfway through the journey, some Democratic schools in the United States could not cope with the economic hardships that were ahead. 

    On the other hand, Sudbury Valley School was one of the democratic schools that survived the economic crisis and went through a path that set it apart from Summerhill School and other democratic schools. Today this school serves as a model for many democratic schools. Today, Schools that follow Sudbury valley school model are called Sudbury schools. 

    Sudbury schools, a new beginning

    Sudbury Valley School was founded in the Framingham area of Massachusetts fifty-three years ago. The key founders of this school were Daniel Greenberg, Hanna Greenberg, Joan Rubin, Mimsy Sadofsky. They were parents who could not find an ideal school for their children. That is why they set out to do what they had in mind. 

    Their ideal school was one where children’s inner needs were prioritized in all situations. They believed that the nature of human existence is full of positive qualities; children are born with all of the positive attributes that we respect in adults, but they end up losing those qualities over time by attending traditional schools.

    education and learning

    Education history

    The Sudbury school’s founders believed that we should closely evaluate how today’s schools are run and why they are no longer successful.

    To summarize the history of education, first, we need to look at the industrial revolution. During the nineteenth century’s industrial revolution, human assistance was required to manufacture products using industrial machines. Factories needed people who excelled at doing the same thing repeatedly. Anyone could take someone’s place in such a system.

    The educational system of that period responded to the needs of the Industrial Revolution in a very calculated way. Teachers in the nineteenth century aimed to concentrate on the three core abilities of reading, writing, and arithmetic, which were required by industrial machines. They raised People who could follow directions, speak briefly with others, and do day-to-day tasks. 

    Thus, compulsory education was born to meet the needs of a limited age range of students (6 to 12 years old). Today, it is not surprising that we see that the main policy of schools is to restrict freedom of choice and action.

    learning in Sudbury schools

    Why Sudbury schools?

    The industrial era is coming to an end today. Factory workers are no longer required. There is no need for People who work like robots. Robots carry out their duties. The machinery of the industrial world required a large number of individuals; however, new machines in this era require less people to work with them. In a post-industrial society, information-processing machines perform repetitive tasks instead of workers. As a result, we now need to revise the school’s format. 

    We can avoid the accumulation of worthless information in the minds of children. We live in an age when the only thing that matters is that each individual can grasp things independently. People are continually forging new routes. Most of us now have occupations that we could not have predicted forty years ago, and our children will have ones that we cannot imagine now. 

    In the coming years, we require people with mature brains. We no longer need to ensure that kids learn the same things as previous generations. Everyone believes that curiosity is the driving force behind learning at Sudbury school. Children in Sudbury are not taught how to work hard, how to be creative, or how to think.

    planting in Sudbury valley school

    How does Sudbury school work?

    In Sudbury schools, students are encouraged to be comfortable in the classroom, to do their tasks at their own pace, and to have unlimited time. It’s not an issue if they become bored because boredom is a natural transition between being exposed to the constant stimuli of the outside world and gaining control over one’s own life. 

    In these schools, Students’ learning is not limited to the classroom; hence the school has neither a classroom nor a curriculum. These schools’ education differs from that of traditional schools. In Sudbury schools, classes are organized based on the students’ preferences. 

    A visitor to Sudbury School might consider the school classes similar to break times as the children are continually engaged in their favorite activities, accompanied by natural feelings of excitement and motivation.

    In the following section, we review some important features of Sudbury Valley schools:

    • Age groups

    Another notable element of this school is age mixing. Sudbury Valley School takes accepts students from the ages of four to eighteen. This wide range of ages, who are together without any restrictions, creates a rich environment; The synergy that occurs in such situations is not comparable to other training centers. Children can stay in school or graduate at any age they wish.

    • Creativity

    Free wandering is not prohibited at Sudbury schools; on the contrary, it is encouraged. Nowadays, Psychologists believe that the free wandering of the mind provides the greatest potential for mindfulness. Creativity is nurtured only in a free environment. The best education is perhaps the one that least hinders the free exploration of the mind. 

    outdoor activities for kids

    • Unlimited time

    In this school, time is defined differently; students have no time limit, which allows them to be more creative. The gap between the end of one lesson and the start of the next (known as beak time in regular schools) for eating and other activities is not determined by any bell. Students are free to come and go from school at any time.

    • Spontaneous learning

    The school’s founders believe that compulsion has an opposite effect on learning; thus, students can participate in whatever activity they like. They are free to do whatever they choose with their leisure. Children’s freedom of choice permits them to pursue activities that motivate them, allowing them to learn at the deepest level possible. 

    • Democracy

    Sudbury school works based on democracy. In this school, democracy is manifested in the fact that children, like adults, have an active role in the management and establishment of school rules. They choose the activities according to their preferences.

    Every student or employee has the right to vote and comment at school meetings. They can speak and express their opinion. The school judicial system is also in charge of investigating and dealing with complaints.

    happy students in sudbury school

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

    1) Do Sudbury school students learn to read and write?

    Usually, after the school’s name, the word that comes to mind is “learning” .learning is a set of basic sciences essential for all people, like reading, writing, and arithmetic. The Sudbury schools feel that these subjects are no longer necessary to learn in today’s world. 

    To write, you must learn how to type; to calculate, you must know how to use a calculator. Reading skill is necessary for children, and they learn it sooner or later. In fact, students of all ages are taught to read and write. Students at this school frequently admit that they are not interested in all of the activities but believe that they should learn things like arithmetic, spelling, and other disciplines. 

    students in the garden

    2) What is the role of the school’s staff?

    The main role of school staff is to meet the needs of students in a sincere, accurate, and compassionate manner. Staffs are not formally employed, and their presence or absence in the coming years of the school depends on the students’ opinion and their vote. 

    If children want to learn a subject, they can get help from other children or school staff on the way to learning. A class will be formed in such conditions, and children will experience direct instruction. As a result, teaching is merely one of the responsibilities of the school staff. The school’s founders believe that no one in the school has the authority to command or forbid students. 

    exercising in school

    3) Do the graduates of this school succeed in the world outside of it?

    According to Mimsy Sadofsky, Sudbury students have all they need to succeed. They are used to hard work, have problem-solving skills, and are aware of their weaknesses and strengths. They know how to overcome their weaknesses and maximize their strengths. As a result, these children are likely to succeed in their future activities.

    She believes that “Sudbury Valley is a school for the post-industrial era”. Decentralization and individualism have ushered in a new era of education. A school that prepares pupils for a rapidly changing world, a world in which living necessitates adaptation, new information acquisition, self-direction, and the ability to enjoy leisure satisfyingly.

    Since 1968, numerous students have graduated from the school, and many have left school without graduating for various reasons. Today those Sudbury students have begun their careers. They are artists, entrepreneurs, university students, or technical and vocational college students. One of the highlights of this school has been documenting the experiences of the graduates and analyzing the effect of Sudbury school on their lives and jobs. Here’s an example of one of these students’ experiences:

    gardening in Sudbury schools

    “In Sudbury, kneading playdough was a fascinating phenomenon. You made things you might not have had before, but you could make them there, one of the most fantastic things you could have ever done. 

    Sometimes a village was built, sometimes a gold mine, and sometimes a city with several hotels and halls. Then there was war, and I needed tanks and planes. I built them one after the other. But anyway, I always built many buildings, vehicles, and people. Then I could perform different scenes with them.

    From time to time, I think I’m doing the same thing right now, but this time in real life. Now I’m building a factory, making cars, and talking to people from morning to night. Exactly the same things I used to do as a child, but much more seriously. My colleagues and I talk about how to set up a car production line, how to talk to customers on the phone, and so on. Every day, every day is exactly what I used to do when I was kneading playdough.”

    conclusion

    “The current age is the post-industrial epoch,” states Daniel Greenberg. The information and service era, the age of imagination, innovation, and entrepreneurship, has arrived. The future is in the hands of those who can use their minds to apply, shape, and implement new and old ideas using existing tools.” Sudbury schools value children’s differences and attempt to prepare them for life in the future. The Sudbury valley school concept has gained popularity in recent years. We anticipate that more of these schools will be established worldwide.

    Refrences:

    1. The Sudbury Valley School Experience (1992) by Daniel Greenberg and mimsy sadofsky
    2. Free to learn (2013) by peter gray
    3. Legacy of trust (1992)by Daniel Greenberg and mimsy sadofsky
    Mahboube Golfeshani

    Mahboube Golfeshani

    I'm Mahboubeh Golfeshani, an agricultural engineering graduate. I love children and nature topics. I'm currently working as a facilitator in forest schools.

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