Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning

by North West Democratic School
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Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Reboot Education with Self Directed Learning
Site Model
Site Model

Hello again!

This year has been a real whirlwind. The children and the school are growing so fast we are kept firmly on our toes at all times. 

We have grown to 70 students this year, and with projected enrolments for September 2022 bringing us to 90 students we are nearing capacity on our current site. As our numbers grow, so too does the need for more space and facilities.  We are very fortunate to have been able to acquire 2 parcels of land adjoining our school site and are making plans to develop a pioneering institute of self directed learning, a centre of excellence where parents, educators, researchers, and policy makers can gain experience and knowledge of this model of education. The initial phase of development will involve the restoration of the existing cottage on one of the sites and planting of native trees to revitalise the land. Secondary phases will involve extending existing buildings while protecting the surrounding natural environment. 

Plans for development of the site are progressing well.  Students from TUD School of Architecture visited us in early March to carry out focus groups with Sligo Sudbury School students as part of their Research and Design Unit on Architecture and Democracy, ensuring all of our members have the opportunity to be involved in the design process.  During a second visit a number of different approaches to the project were presented based on the input from our staff and students. We especially enjoyed the interactive 3D model of the site, showcasing the possibilities and exploring alternatives. 

Being able to work on real world projects in real time is one of the valuable opportunities afforded by self-directed education in a democratic school setting. From smaller projects such as designing and building a Go-Kart to much larger projects such as the expansion of our school, students have the opportunity to get involved and learn directly from experts in the field should they choose to. Everything is possible. 

We have succeeded and developed from our humble beginnings four years ago to this point thanks to the passion, generosity and diligence of all those involved. Your support is invaluable in the realisation of our goal, to make self-directed education an option for all children. 

Thank you.

Go Kart
Go Kart
Butterfly
Butterfly
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Hello from Sligo Sudbury School!

One of the features that makes self-directed education so appealing to young people is that they have the freedom to enjoy their learning anywhere, within or outside of the school grounds and buildings. Lorcan Southcombe is one of the students who enjoys this freedom at Sligo Sudbury School. He is U16 national Irish surf champion and is very passionate about his sport, taking every opportunity to practice and hone his skill. Staff and students alike are inspired by his self determination, his discipline and dedication, and his success. See him in action @lorcansouthcombe 

When not surfing, Lorcan is an avid drummer and all round musician. His sense of purpose and his commitment to his goals are fully supported by the democratic self-directed model of education.

We continue striving to provide a stable, stimulating, and self-governing environment where all children can grow and learn. Enrolments have grown and are now a community of 71 students and 10 staff members, with 3 new staff joining us in September 2021 and another in January 2022. We have reached the point where we are starting to think about how best to develop our site and school buildings so that we can continue to accept enrolments in the coming years. An additional parcel of land adjacent to our school site has been purchased and discussions with the school community are in progress to develop our vision together. We will keep you posted on our progress. 

The students are embracing the responsibilities and the joys of self-governance. Initiatives over the past few months have included 

  • Taking part in a "Sleep Out" raising over $2,000 to support the work of local homeless charity NorthWest Simon Community
  • Creating a Pop up Cafe serving a monthly "banquet on a budget". Food is vegetarian and inspired by culinary traditions from around the world. 
  • Building a tree house and a go-cart using wood and recycled materials
  • Performing a Toy Theatre production in the style of Victorian paper theatre 
  • Participating in the Primary Schools Science Fair at IT Sligo
  • Mastering Olympic Handball - we have a newly formed team
  • and much much more

Thank you for helping us to make Democratic, Self-Directed Education a reality that we can all aspire to. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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We have just begun our 4th year at Sligo Sudbury School with 60 wonderful students. The school is thriving and growing, thanks to the committment of the staff, parents, students, and the generosity and support of people like you who value and respect the voice of children. We would like to share here, in the words of one of our families, what it means to a child to experience autonomy and agency at a democratic school.  

After a few months in mainstream education, we realised our 5 year old boy could 'get over' his hesitance, fear and dislike of the system he was in but we would really have to question at what cost to his happiness and confidence.  He is our second child, and his older brother was enjoying mainstream schooling, so it left us in a state of uncertainty.  However, having read about alternative forms of education, we knew our children would thrive more in an environment that promotes individuality, freedom of expression and a democratic governing policy.

We brought him to a meeting at the Sligo Sudbury School and he immediately connected with the place.  He knew he had found his place and his tribe, and we followed his lead.  He started in Sligo Sudbury a few weeks later.  Before he started, his older brother asked him 'do you think they have 'Star of the Week' there?'  He answered with a laugh, 'no, everyone is Star of the Week.'  He understood before us that talents and skills should not be graded and measured but explored, that every child should have the option to explore those passions that matter to them and that having an equal voice matters.   He thrived when he joined Sligo Sudbury; as a now 6 year old, his passion is still mud, playing tag, building dens and sometimes wandering indoors (though not often!).  His older brother (8) joined him at Sligo Sudbury the following September and although he struggled with the idea of leaving his former school friends, it was his decision to try it and to stay.  He really loves his new surroundings and has never looked back; the single biggest change we see in him is his confidence to speak to adults, to voice his opinion, to rationalise his decision making, to question the world around him and to be innovative.  We have struggled ourselves with the idea of leaving the curriculum behind, but we can honestly say our children are learning fast and are inquisitive.  Most importantly for us, in the midst of a world turned upside down in this pandemic, Sudbury offers a sanctuary of child centred normality and our children are happy.

Ailish and Breandan Flaherty

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Despite the difficulties of the past year our project has survived and is growing from strength to strength thanks to the generosity of donors like you, the dedication of our staff, and the commitment of our parents and students. Enrolments are growing and will reach over 60 students in September 2021. We never could have imagined this when we opened our doors with 15 students just under 3 years ago. We are more determined than ever to provide an educational environment that is rooted in empathy, where students are empowered to direct their education and experiences in ways that are directly relevant to their lives. The events of the past year have revealed the inflexibility and dependency cultivated by the mainstream educational model, and have made ever clearer the need for a system overhaul. 

One of the challenges during this time was to find a way to let prospective students visit our school virtually. Staff and student film makers put together a short video to give a glimpse of life inside Sligo Sudbury School. We hope you enjoy!  https://youtu.be/FuVVPHyf1KQ 

Our students are thriving, finding ways to adapt and keep growing. We are grateful for the space and freedom we have to support them. 

In the words of one of our parents:

"... (our son) really loves his new surroundings and has never looked back; the single biggest change we see in him is his confidence to speak to adults, to voice his opinion, to rationalise his decision making, to question the world around him and to be innovative.  We have struggled ourselves with the idea of leaving the curriculum behind, but we can honestly say our children are learning fast and are inquisitive.  Most importantly for us, in the midst of a world turned upside down in this pandemic, Sudbury offers a sanctuary of child centred normality and our children are happy."

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January and February saw a return to lockdown as the pandemic restrictions were reimposed due to rising infection rates. Staff and students adapted well, collaborating to ensure stimulating and supportive opportunities online to remain connected and continue learning together. Our connection to each other and to our community is at the heart of everything we do at Sligo Sudbury School, so we focused our attention on maintaining these connections with each other during this time. Ironically, we made new friends from all over the world during this time, thanks to International Democratic School meetups on zoom and a shared global experience. 

We were able to return to in-person school at the beginning of March 2021. All of our students were thrilled to be back and we also  welcomed 4 new students into our communty. We are more motivated than ever to promote self-directed education as a valuable and viable option for all young people. Autonomy and responsiblity play a key role in developing resilience, wellbeing, and agency. Children who are accustomed to self-direction find it easier to adapt to changing circumstances as they look within themselves for direction rather than depending solely on an external source. 

Our students continue to thrive with the support of their peers and the democratic ethos of our school.

Thank you for your help in making all of this possible. 

Balance
Balance
Muddy Hands
Muddy Hands
What to cook
What to cook
Construction
Construction
Embroidery
Embroidery

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Organization Information

North West Democratic School

Location: Sligo - Ireland
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Project Leader:
Sligo Sudbury
Sligo, Ireland
$10,613 raised of $15,000 goal
 
257 donations
$4,387 to go
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