A Feast of Ideas


Beyond Reber Place: finding a long-term home

If you have toured South City Community School recently, you may have noticed some odd things. A room tucked off the the side of our gym that once served as a school kitchen—fitted with a window and stainless steel counter for receiving food trays—now functions as our art room. Not far away, a former stage, once painted entirely black and still flanked by heavy stage curtains, has been converted into our lending library. While these makeshift rooms are definitely unconventional, we embrace them as a natural extension of our origins as a grassroots, start-up school approaching its ten-year anniversary. A shrewd resourcefulness, an attitude of contentment with limited resources, and a willingness to make the most of whatever God provides continue to be a natural part our identity. But more... Read More

Making Sense of the World through Mapping

Last week SCCS fifth graders worked on drawing a map of their classroom to scale. Using a yard stick and graph paper they plotted out the walls and key pieces of furniture according to real-life proportions. Mapping is part of the SCCS experience from kindergarten onward, beginning with the most immediate terrain of the classroom. Kindergartners draw a picture of their classroom while first graders build a model with blocks. As students grow in age and ability, their maps become more sophisticated, incorporating concepts like scale, direction, and depth. SCCS students have been spotted on our school grounds sticking rulers into puddles after rainstorms to measure depth. They use the data to create maps that mimic topographical maps of lakes. But however sophisticated the skills involved, our teachers always focus... Read More

Back to School Joy

For SCCS teachers and staff, nothing beats the feeling of seeing our students come up the stairs and into their classrooms again for the first time after a long summer break. Our building is full of life again! We welcomed many new and returning families in our largest incoming class to date– 190 students. This first week has been a joyful re-entry into new and old routines, remembering good habits, caring for one another, and jumping back into the love of learning. Here are a few snapshots of our first week of school.              

On Our Shelf: How Children Succeed

SCCS is launching a new series called On Our Shelf. In this series we plan to review and recommend our favorite books on education and parenting. We hope this series will be a useful resource for SCCS parents and others who share our perspectives on childhood. The first book we would like to share with you is How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough.   Brandy Greiner, Director of Education I assigned How Children Succeed for our staff’s Summer 2017 reading assignment because I wanted our teachers to have a common understanding of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), and because I think it is important for us to stay up to date on best practices in our field. There has been a lot of research in recent years about grit and resilience.... Read More

There All Along: Honoring Diversity in the SCCS Curriculum

“None of the manuscripts I’d been illustrating featured any black kids—except for token blacks in the background. My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along.” – Ezra Jack Keats Every fall, three year-olds at SCCS begin the school year by reading the books of Ezra Jack Keats– The Snowy Day, Peter’s Chair, and Whistle for Willie. Published in the 1960s these books blazed a trail simply by featuring an African American boy as a main character in a child’s picture book– something that was unprecedented at that time. Of course, when our three year-olds read these books, they just enjoy the story itself and are not aware of anything especially controversial or trailblazing about Peter and his ordinary boyhood adventures. They also learn about... Read More

Seven Reasons Why SCCS is Proud to be a Low-Tech School

Since SCCS opened its doors, our curriculum has never relied heavily on the use of technology. While our older students (third grade and up) learn typing and the light use of internet and email, you will never find an SCCS student holding an iPad in lieu of a pencil and paper. Many primary schools spend a lot of money to put computers or tablets into the hands of even their youngest students, but our attitude has been to hold back. We are advocates of the low-tech school day because our vision for learning prioritizes hands-on experience, face-to-face interactions, and mental stamina with minimal distractions. As screens and technology become more ubiquitous, we believe that keeping school (mostly) screen-free has great advantages for the developing minds of children. Here are seven reasons why... Read More

Like a Fire: Charlotte Mason and Habit Formation at SCCS

  “Habit is like a fire, a bad master but an indispensable servant.” – Charlotte Mason We are five weeks into the school year and the inevitable start-of-school wrinkles are being ironed out. I could be suffering from selective memory or a romanticized view of the past, but when I think about last year, it is hard to remember the bumpy beginning. By spring, so much growth will have happened. As I reflect on this fall-to-spring transformation, I realize that it is not magical or automatic, but is the result of a lot of hard work by our teachers–the hard work of habit formation. Last year I watched the fourth grade class at the same time of day for one hour each month. It seemed like it would be a... Read More

Last Day of School: tears, cheers, and a blessing

  AT THE END OF THE YEAR (An excerpt from John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us) As this year draws to its end, We give thanks for the gifts it brought And how they become inlaid within Where neither time nor tide can touch them. Days when beloved faces shone brighter With light from beyond themselves; And from the granite of some secret sorrow A stream of buried tears loosened. We bless this year for all we learned, For all we loved and lost And for the quiet way it brought us Nearer to our invisible destination. * * * Everyone knows that the last day of school is a day like none other–routines are overturned, furniture is moving, brooms and dustpans are active, and everything is being done for the... Read More

Nature journaling at SCCS: not just a quaint pastime

At SCCS each child from kindergarten on receives a small notebook with stiff covers and high quality paper. This will serve as a nature journal and follow them from grade to grade for as long as they are at our school. A notebook containing watercolor sketches of dandelions and acorns may evoke an image of something quaint from yesteryear, like a Victorian picnic–charming, but not particularly relevant or serving any real purpose. The truth is that nature journaling is full of pedagogical value. When children attempt to replicate an object from nature they must exercise their powers of observation and concentration. Their drawing must mirror the true size and scale of the object, and they must experiment with mixing colors to replicate the real colors of that object. The close... Read More