Gray Matters, June 2024

Progressive Education in Program and Practice

Last week, amidst the energy and activity of the final weeks of school, we paused to welcome grandparents and friends for a virtual visit to Capitol Hill Day School. We had a wonderful audience of around 50 members of our extended community. For a little over an hour, Kathryn, Tom, Leslie, and I shared a presentation titled: “Progressive Education in Program and Practice.”

To anchor our talking points we used quotes from foundational progressive education thinkers, John Dewey and Paula Freire. 

“Education is not an affair of the ‘telling’ and being told, but an active and constructive process.”
— John Dewey

“Educators must do everything to ensure an atmosphere in the classroom where teaching and learning, and studying are serious acts, but also ones that generate happiness.” 
— Paulo Freire 

In broad terms, these quotes encapsulate the active, engaging, joyful, and intellectually stimulating learning environment that is at the heart of our School. Drilling down further, we articulated for grandparents and friends what progressive education means to us as Capitol Hill Day School educators: 

  • We are responsive to and guided by children’s interests: We seek to tap into their intrinsic motivation, fostering a love for learning that comes from within.
  • We care for the whole child: This includes their intellectual, emotional, and social development, ensuring a balanced and holistic approach to education.
  • We focus on developing a deep understanding of concepts: We help students see how ideas connect within and across disciplines, promoting a comprehensive grasp of knowledge.
  • Students construct understanding through active engagement: Learning happens both in and outside of the classroom, making education a dynamic and interactive process.
  • The process is as important as the product: We emphasize the journey of learning, encouraging students to value effort, reflection, and growth.
  • Learning is collaborative: It is integrated across subject areas with students and teachers co-owning the learning process, fostering a community of shared inquiry and support.
  • We are committed to justice and activism: We work to foster a commitment to these values in our students, encouraging them to be conscientious and informed citizens.

While it is difficult to capture Capitol Hill Day School through a virtual medium, we used a collection of photos to visually support the talking points we shared.  

The outcome of our educational approach teaches children how to ask questions, solve problems, organize thinking, value collaboration, find patterns, take risks, and see mistakes as essential tools for growth and development. Capitol Hill Day School graduates develop a deep love of learning, a strong sense of self, and a genuine concern for those around them. Our progressive approach not only prepares students academically but also equips them with the skills and mindset needed to navigate and positively impact the world.