Linda Donnelly, Co-Head: Curriculum and Instruction
Dana Kadish, Co-Head: Admissions and Family Outreach
Welcome to The Common School! Nestled on three acres and surrounded by the Larch Hill Conservation Area and Bramble Hill Farm, The Common School has offered joyful, integrated learning experiences to children ages 3-12 for over 50 years. We invite you to explore our website to get a sense of what our community and program can offer your family.
The School is excited to operate under a new collaborative leadership model. Together, the leadership team brings over 60 years of Common School experience to its partnership, along with a shared passion for the mission of the School. Three individuals make up The Common School’s Co-Head leadership team, each with their own area of focus: Dana Kadish, Admissions and Family Relations; Dave Nordstrom, Business, Finance, and Plant Management; and Linda Donnelly, Curriculum and Instruction. Click here to see a statement from each member of the leadership team.
What does our mission look like in action? Please read on to learn about some of the ways that we put our values into practice.
We believe in the importance of a diverse and inclusive school community in which all students share a sense of belonging. We do this by:
- Celebrating and acknowledging identity in our student population, such as when Elementary 1 students celebrate Hispanic Heritage month through literature, art, and family connections.
- Including daily class meetings in all classrooms in which individual student connections are honored and students’ social/emotional development is prioritized.
- Supporting faculty who recently participated in a professional development experience called Dismantling White Supremacy Culture in Schools and exploring next steps to become a more anti-racist school.
- Creating an early childhood Changemaker project as part of the School’s deep commitment to social justice standards.
We witness the excitement for learning that comes from Common School children actively discovering, making, and doing things for themselves. We do this by:
- Engaging Elementary 2 students in a place-based field study of the nearby Fort River and related social justice issues related to clean water, such as the Flint water crisis.
- Supporting the Primary 1 students’ appeal to the Amherst Conservation Commission, as they sought permission to access adjoining land for a Forest Friday curriculum.
- Co-constructing a Reggio-inspired curriculum with Nursery students based on their interests.
- Developing a Primary 2 study of structures, including research about animal architects and the creation of animal structure models models of animal structures.
We believe that meaningful education cultivates the imagination and instills an appreciation for learning as an engaging, joyful pursuit. We do this by:
- Collaborating with Abenaki artist and educator Judy Dow to study Native Americans of New England through story and art.
- Including student-initiated field research and the creation of imaginary bird species in the E2 spring study of birds.
- Designing a children’s garden that all students access for learning and play, such as this year’s pizza garden.
- Planning seasonal outdoor celebrations that feature music and dance learned in the music program.
We prioritize the creation of a safe and stimulating atmosphere for learning that encourages children to trust in themselves and others, honor differences, question, take risks, collaborate, assume responsibility, and discover individual areas of strength and interest. We do this by:
- Developing a Primary 2 Senses Study that includes people of all abilities, such as a proprioceptive inquiry into design and use of prosthetics.
- Creating a “Big Run” program for primary and elementary students who earn the privilege of independently running through the surrounding conservation land as an extension of our physical education program.
- Involving the Elementary 2 students in a critical review of library resources to help the librarian grow the School’s collection of diverse books.
- Deconstructing race and gender as part of the Elementary 1 study of the human body.
We help students develop strong academic and social skills while nurturing each child’s love of learning, respect and compassion for others, and commitment to the environment. We do this by:
- Designing a new Elementary 1 study of the pandemic and its links to racial injustice and climate change.
- Involving the whole school in planting and harvesting pumpkins and potatoes at Bramble Hill Farm, which are then shared with a local food distribution center.
- Collaboratively planning with our students to participate in a worldwide climate justice walk-out.
- Developing a project in which our oldest students map the school campus, survey the student body, and provide recommendations to the Board of Trustees for creating a wildlife corridor using native plants.
We value opportunities for rigorous inquiry, for hands-on exploration and creative expression, for cross-age experiences, for quiet reflection, for celebration, and for play. We do this by:
- Celebrating in-depth studies and all-school gatherings such as Grandparents/ Special Friends Day each spring.
- Organizing a cross-age buddy program in which younger and older buddies regularly meet to read, play, sketch, and do activities together.
- Bringing in cultural partners, such as storyteller Eshu Bumpus, to teach primary and elementary students how to tell stories and write their own play.
- Providing outside time for every class, every day.
Now more than ever The Common School’s approach to teaching and learning is making a difference in our students’ lives and in our greater community. We invite you to tour our campus and witness for yourself our mission in action!
Linda Donnelly, Co-Head: Curriculum & Instruction
Dana Kadish, Co-Head: Admissions & Family Outreach