In our progressive approach to education, we focus on the intrinsic power of “play”. Based in nearly a century’s worth of research by leading psychologists and educators worldwide (Erickson, Piaget, Dewey, Emilia, Boss), we take a constructivist approach to schooling, where the child--their interests, strengths, and needs--is central to delivering a relevant and engaging curriculum. Our focus is on “depth over breadth”, always seeking to deepen learning experiences and empower our students to explore what interests them in a meaningful way.
The Oak Park Friends School is truly a school without walls.
Because of our small class size and multi-age format, we are uniquely suited to take advantage of the revolutionary forces in education today. As a “micro-school” (as opposed to large, brick and mortar public schools), we truly get to know each and every family and student. Our philosophy involves taking careful observations of the needs and interests of our students and using these observations as the basis for our emergent curriculum and project-based learning. As a micro-school, we have the ability to take field trips on a weekly basis, to get our students out into the real world and to provide authentic learning experiences in and around the Chicago-area. Whether visiting an area business or working closely with local nonprofits, or NGOs, our students are actively engaged in the issues, topics, and pulse of the Oak Park community. Through these interactions, our students are able to test out ideas and hypothesis in a real-world setting and to nurture their own character development through real interaction within the community .
We believe that this sets us apart from large, conventional bureaucratic schools whose increased size increases capacity but limits mobility.
Another advantage of our micro-school is our ability to embrace technology in the classroom in meaningful and transformational ways. We believe in “blended learning”--using technology and experiential learning in the classroom. Tablets and educational apps allow us to track the individual growth of our students on a day-to-day basis. Updates can be sent electronically to parents in real time. Our students are equipped with a chromebooks and tablets to access a multitude of resources online, to create, to develop their project-ideas and to document their learning. Technology is vital for our students’ success in the 21st century information economy. It is improving global communication and education. OPFS is open to partnering with tech. developers to streamline our student platform, assessments, and implement new ideas to increase student engagement and outcomes.
We take a scaffold approach to screen-time: Our early learners (K-5) access technology on average of 30 minutes during core time and spend the remainder of that period building skills through exploration stations, read alouds, literacy stations, guided writing, or history/science/art. Our older learners (6+) can choose to spend their entire core block on their devices, or anywhere from 30-90 minutes daily.
From a teacher’s perspective, technology enables seamless evaluation of student development in core areas like reading and math. Through online learning programs like Khan academy and digital reading programs like RAZkids, OPFS students work at their individual level and develop confidence and skills as they work towards mastery.
Our school is grounded in the Quaker tradition and we are committed to nurturing individuals with empathy, character, social intelligence--the skills necessary to not only get along with their classmates, but to work towards solving real-world problems through collaborative projects.
OPFS students exploring Millenium Park in downtown Chicago. Field Trips into the city are normal parts of our emergent curriculum and inquiry-based education. They are often used to spark interest into a theme or to capture emergent topics of study.