The School of Our Dreams Might Actually Exist

One public school in Boston is focused on building students' collaborative—rather than competitive—abilities.


Earlier this spring respected creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson shared his vision for his dream school—a whole-child learning experience that deemphasized testing and focused on exploring ideas and integrating art and science. Robinson's not the only one advocating for such a learning environment. D.C.-based education expert and writer Sam Chaltain has also been actively searching for what he calls a "transformational" school—a place that creates and sustains student-centered learning communities and prepares students with the intellectual, social, and emotional tools they need to actively participate in our democracy.

But does such a dream school exist? At a time when many school districts seem to be on the path to more testing and increasingly rigid math- and reading-based curricula, Chaltain writes on the Start Empathy blog that he may have found such a campus—Mission Hill School, a public elementary school in Boston’s low-income Mission Hill neighborhood.

As the video above shows, Mission Hill's students start their lessons without prodding from their teachers and what they're learning is dictated not by the need to memorize facts, but by the essential life skills that every citizen needs. However, what's most striking is that the school’s entire culture is focused on building students' collaborative—rather than competitive—abilities. They’re given specific instruction in how to, says Chaltain, "learn to think—and act—empathetically." Watching the students and staff at Mission Hill learning together is pretty inspiring. What would it take for other schools around the nation to make a similar transformation?