The Montclair Cooperative School is a community of students, teachers, and parents who are dedicated to creating a diverse and nurturing environment where children flourish intellectually and where they develop exceptional social skills along with a deep sense of community responsibility.
“We really listen to each other, our classes are small so we want the best for our classmates and we pitch in to solve problems together. I guess we just know that when we do that it makes school a better, happier place for all of us.”
– Co-op Seventh Grader
At the heart of our educational approach is the belief that children thrive in an environment that emphasizes a progressive approach to learning, a sense of community among students, teachers and parents, and the development of social skills.
A Focus on Progressive Education
The Co-op program is founded on the belief that children learn best through hands-on experiences inspired by their own questions about the world. The teacher’s role, in essence, is to support and give necessary guidance to these young learners as they grow and develop. This sophisticated approach to the learning process leads our students to thrive academically both at the Co-op and afterwards.
Challenging academics, social education, physical activity and education and creative expression through the arts define the four dimensions of a quality education. At MCS these four are interconnected, forming an integrated curriculum. During the course of a child’s education at the Co-op, the balance of the four shifts; but throughout, these core elements remain in harmony. As children progress through the program, the four areas – though still interconnected – become more differentiated, allowing for separate, intensive instruction in academics, the arts, in physical pursuits and social skills. This integrated approach begins with a classroom theme that provides children a riveting context in which to learn and practice academic skills, to develop their understanding of social interaction, and to express their creativity. At its core, this approach teaches children how to think. It begins with what children already know and then provokes questions that lead them to seek out new knowledge.
A True Sense of Community
At the Montclair Cooperative School, students of all grade levels feel that they are part of a school community that extends beyond their own classroom. Older children learn about nurturing and responsibility by sharing in a wide range of activities with younger students. For example, older students work one-on-one as reading buddies to children in younger grades, offering encouragement and practical tips to the beginning readers. At MCS, learning is recognized as an ongoing process. We take seriously the idea that parents, too, are partners in their children’s education. The school offers parents exceptional opportunities to witness and participate in their children’s education. Part of the parent’s role at MCS is to assist in their child’s classroom, seeing for themselves their child’s school experience and becoming actively involved in the process.
An Emphasis on Social Skills
Guiding children toward a greater understanding of and respect for others is one of our school’s primary missions. Social curriculum is therefore an on-going, fundamental aspect of Co-op life.
We recognize that conflicts are part of growing up and that it is our responsibility as adults and educators to guide children toward appropriate ways to resolve them. Teasing and bullying are not tolerated. Instead, children learn how to negotiate, to reach a consensus, to resolve conflicts and to advocate for themselves and others in group situations. Rather than lecture children, we use their personal experiences in and out of the classroom to teach healthy social behavior.
As part of our social curriculum, students routinely participate in community service learning projects . Through this they learn about the positive impact their effort can have and grow both in their understanding of the diversity of our world and their ability to engage inclusively with it.