There are certain preconceived notions about school that many of us have from our own experiences, such as lesson plans are inflexible, teachers deliver long lectures and learning takes place inside a classroom. At The College School, rigid lesson plans and traditional lectures are not on the curriculum. The independent school in Webster Groves is dedicated to inspiring a lifelong love of learning in students from preschool through grade eight. By putting education directly into the hands of its students through experiential learning, even the youngest learners are empowered and engaged.
Since The College School’s beginning, the school has been positioned at the forefront of new ideas and educational innovation. It was founded in 1963 by Webster College as a laboratory, or demonstration, school to train teachers and conduct research on education. While the school separated from the college decades ago, head of school Carl Pelofsky notes that it has continued to embrace the progressive spirit of its founding. “The College School has never accepted traditional methods of teaching and learning,” he explains. “The world is constantly changing, and we can’t expect to be effective if we remain unchanged.”
The school’s mission is to engage and empower students. Pelofsky notes that an important part of that is offering students some control over how they learn. “We are truly student-centered as our students contribute heavily to their own educational journey,” he says. “We want learning to be exciting, meaningful and relevant, and we want our students to be creative risk takers. They truly love going to school, and they all share profound memories of their experiences at The College School during our graduation ceremony.” The success of the school’s innovative approach is clear: 95% of students are accepted into their first choice high school.
One of the major ways the school engages students is taking lessons out of the classroom for authentic hands-on learning opportunities. The College School has two campuses. The one in Webster Groves includes gardens and a simulated river and is adjacent to local parks and biking trails. Its LaBarque Campus in Pacific, Missouri, offers 28 acres for students to learn and explore. The departure from the traditional educational environment and students’ own comfort zones has big benefits. “Since education isn’t simply ‘delivered’ to our students, they emerge from our program confident in their abilities to learn and grow,” Pelofsky says. “Since they are comfortable taking risks and we view them as capable and confident, our students work exceptionally well with their peers, understand the value of support and collaboration, and are exceedingly comfortable around adults.”
This year is The College School’s 60th anniversary, marking a time of celebration and excitement. The school plans to commemorate the milestone in many different ways, according to Pelofsky. “We recently had an all-school birthday party, complete with cupcakes and special guests from our school’s past,” he notes. “Throughout the year we will celebrate our school, our history and look with anticipation and excitement to our future.”
The College School empowers students to engage deeply with a curriculum built on experiential learning. The independent school serves students in prekindergarten through grade eight. This year, the school is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Pictured on the cover: Two College School students engage in hands-on learning. For more information, call 314.962.9355 or visit thecollegeschool.org.
Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo courtesy of The College School
Pictured at the top: For 60 years, The College School has offered students hands-on learning activities.
Photo courtesy of The College School