HOW DOES OUR CONTEXT CREATE VALUES AND MEANINGS FOR THE COMMUNITY?
The historical context of our school is important for the community to see a journey of education that has evolved. What our school is grounded in creates a path for future development and the history brings relevance where it all began. Showing our history places meaning behind the creation of the path and gives purpose to the mission for the future.
Schools can begin with a notion, idea or value and over time these values or belief systems grow into working communities of possibilities where schools can thrive, grow, and create educational systems that affect the cultural surroundings of the environment within and school and beyond its gates.
The history of the Sunshine Shack, like many creative endeavors, has a story. It was born in small back yard in West Hollywood in 2005 by Sara Schuelein Perets. The notion was to have a place where young children could be creative and build upon their ideas and relationships in small groups with teachers that were caring to their needs. After the small school was conceived we needed a name that at the time was suitable for the context of the school, which was a small guest house painted yellow and orange with ceramic and wire suns on the outside. The Sunshine Shack was born and although it has now grown beyond the “Shack” that it began as, it holds such relevance of who we are in the community.
The Shack opened its doors to a small group of enthused families and created a basis for what the school has now grown into.
We value that community has to be built and is established as a partnership between the families and staff. The teachers were loving, kind attentive, and rotted in the pedagogy of listening, yet there needed to be more substance and depth for the school to sustain itself and our attunement to development into something more.
OUR EDUCATIONAL VALUES
Sara’s keen interest and research into constructivism lead her to the Reggio Approach to learning, where the notion that children were capable and competent in their own learning and developmental process. This was exciting to base an entire environment and curriculum.
No doubt a huge undertaking and would involve many years of research and study to find strategies to create a school where children were in negotiation with teachers to create their own complex systems of relationships in a sociocultural context and that the school would not be teacher driven but rather a parent, child, and teacher centered environment.
A NEW HOME FOR OUR SCHOOL
The new Sunshine Shack was found as a Hollywood Bail Bonds in the heart of Hollywood. After a year of design, renovation, help and support from a dedicated group of parents, it became a school that would serve over 40 families.
When the school opened, there was so much work to be done. The teachers were still letting go of old tendencies of traditional teaching and still grappling with the notion that children would be the driving force in forming the curriculum and culture of the classroom. Our work was slow going and there were many questions, yet the passion and perseverance in the importance of what we were doing kept us going and motivated to be researchers, students, and advocates for quality education.
We had to reevaluate our intentions, our processes and refine our pedagogy of listening, thinking, and observing.
Most importantly, we had to FAIL.
Through this failure we found better systems and more innovative ways to work with the children as partners. We learned our most valuable tool we have today.
The dialogue we created drew parents into the process and we learned to question others about the meaning and context of their work pushing the value into new and interesting avenues.
We cultivated a community of children that were in an environment where autonomy, values, and competency surrounded them and created the school we have today.
We are proud of the school we have become and all the hard work and transformation that has brought us here but more importantly we are in awe of the journey we have traveled……and are still traveling.