Monthly Archives: September 2016

Dear Parents,

Welcome to my blog, Teaching & Learning at PS1 Pluralistic School. Throughout the year I’ll be posting a behind-the-scenes look at PS1’s curriculum and program. I look forward to sharing my insights about the students’ experiences in their classrooms and their school.

This August, before the opening of school, teachers were in their classrooms creating the engaging spaces in which your children are learning. Sometimes, when people describe a progressive classroom they refer to it as unstructured. This term is a misnomer. Teachers at PS1 thoughtfully structure the learning environments for your children to enhance motivation and meet students’ group and individual needs.

When people say that a progressive classroom is unstructured is it like saying that a building is unstructured. Think of the Music Center downtown or the house pictured here.


The structure that allows this building to float is unseen and undetectable to the untrained eye- so it is with a progressive classroom.

Environment impacts children and children respond differently to spatial experiences depending on the type of location and their mood. On a beach, one child will run as far as they can, and another will find a rock outcropping in which to “hide.” Teachers at PS1 understand that the learner-environment relationship is dynamic. What the observer sees is the flow of self-reliant children moving in and out of varied learning experiences; walking to put materials away, working in a small group, finding a place to concentrate by themselves. This choice of movement is not haphazard nor does it happen spontaneously. Progressive educators scrutinize their space and consider their students’ needs as they plan their environment. Not all of this is evident to the “naked eye.” Just as the floating house has an invisible structure so does the progressive classroom.  The teachers at PS1 plan the classroom environment with an emphasis on the knowledge of who their students are both individually and collectively.

The photos below illustrate some examples of this in the classrooms.

See that LJIndigo have varied areas for children to work and LiAnne and Jamie chose to put a quiet area in the center of the space.


In this photo, the JPO teachers use tape to create a boundary for the block area. This taped border is a simple visual signal to children that there is a particular place for their building.


In two other examples, one from JPO and the other from LJI note the well-organized space for children to work together with materials close at hand.



Like the “floating” house in the photo the structure is there in the classrooms.

Teachers at PS1 may set up their classrooms differently at PS1- no two classrooms are the same. But be assured that all of your childrens’ teachers have placed thoughtful consideration into how the environment impacts learning.


“There are three teachers of children: adults, other children, and their physical environment.”

Loris Malaguzzi


Nancy Harding, is the Assistant Head for Teaching and Learning at PS1. Since 2000, Nancy served as a Professor-Tenured at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education & Psychology, teaching graduate courses in child development and K-6 teacher education. Prior to Pepperdine, she taught elementary grade levels in public and independent schools in California. Nancy has been a progressive educator for many years. “After sixteen years as a professor I am delighted to be back working in a progressive school. I am thoroughly enjoying the teachers and students.”