California Notebook: Continued

The first post in this series is here.

Today, I’m sharing some photo-notes from Synapse School in Menlo Park. This post serves the dual purpose of shining a light on things I found interesting while wandering around a school and helping to solidify my learning / memories.

When you walk into Synapse School, the first thing you see is this wall.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is their “change maker” of the year, so she flows through many aspects of their program and curriculum. I saw half finished paintings of her in the art studio, and my tour guide told me that students study her in several academic classes. I think there is something quite powerful about having a focus that connects all the diverse initiatives that happen in a school from day-to-day.

I also noticed — and liked — this banner.

It celebrates their “entrepreneur in residence.” I like the fact that these students will grow up thinking that entrepreneurs are normal people who walk around in schools and intermingle with kids and adults.

At Synapse I also noticed plenty of places for students to step out of the classroom and into spaces where they can build or make things. Here’s a block space, where students collaborate intensely and sometimes work on their own:

And here’s a giant maker space. I toured it right at the end of the school day, and it was thrilling to see students walking into the space, without a teacher, and heading off in their own direction to build something. I didn’t take any pictures of students, but the looks on their faces said it all: they were confident, self directed, happy, and open to the ideas of others — especially when they entered this giant space filled with tools:

Last, but certainly not least, Synapse invests both time and space in the education of their parent community. They see parents as important allies in their work, and therefore, they take seriously the growth of parents. They also work hard to set clear expectations for the room in which their parental education takes place:

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