Engaging The Whole Child in Learning
It is a curriculum that makes connections –
community, earth, soul, subject and mind-and-body connections –
and it develops intuition and inquiry.”
- From the curriculum documents for The Whole Child School,
a Toronto District School Board
alternative school which opens this fall
The parents who received phone calls telling them that their children had secured spots in The Whole Child School reacted as if they had won the lottery. And, as it turns out, they had. Demand for spaces in the new school was so great that the school had to conduct a lottery to allocate spaces as fairly as possible, says Shari Walczak, a mother of two who has been serving as parent co-chair of the school’s organizing committee.
When The Whole Child School opens its doors this September, it will start out with seven classes: three combined JK/SK classes (Walczak’s 4-year-old son will be in one of those classes); full classes at the Grades 1, 2, and 3 level; and a combined Grade 4/5 class. The school will grow with its students, eventually offering classes from JK through Grade 8.
It isn’t difficult to see what has attracted students to this publicly-funded alternative school. The Whole Child School (which will be sharing space with Roden Public School in the Gerrard and Coxwell neighborhood) will be following a holistic curriculum that has been developed by a highly skilled team of educators, with input from Professor John P. Miller of the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.
One of the key challenges that the school’s founders foresee will be managing parent expectations. No school is perfect--even if the curriculum documents make The Whole Child School sound like a learning paradise on earth. What the Whole Child School community can promise to do is be open to learning from the mistakes that will inevitably be made as the school gets through its novice year. “We’ll be learning and adjusting and changing as we go.”
Walczak and other members of the organizing committee are counting on The Whole Child School’s parent community to play a hands-on role in shaping the school during this first, formative year. “We’re looking for a real time commitment and involvement level from our parents. We want them to be involved with everything from fundraising and identifying potential partnerships to providing input on the curriculum and vision.”
If all goes well, The Whole Child School could end up serving as a model for the kind of education every child should be receiving in order to be able to meet the challenges of the future, says Walczak. “We would love for The Whole Child School to become the norm for all children down the road.”
- Ron Miller, one of the major thinkers and contributors
to the field of holistic education, on the role holistic education
has to play in the development of the whole child,
quoted on The Whole Child School website