Since April my elder child, Mirai, 12, has been attending an experimental free school called Tokyo Sudbury School.
It’s experimental because this school is so new–just a year and a half old and there are currently only seven students attending. It’s a free school in the orthodox meaning that children are free to spend their day as they wish.
And still there are plenty of rules to keep the students very much engaged with each other, forming bonds, holding daily meetings, making decisions large and small about how they would like their educational experience to proceed.
The model for this school is based in Boston. The Sudbury Valley School in Framingham is the flagship for about 30 schools around the world that model themselves after the school that Dan Greenberg envisioned back in 1968 as the ultimate in non-schooling education. The idea is simple: give children a beautiful spacious environment and fill it with stimulating people who are happily going about their day sharing their passions, talents, and opinions with the kids in an informal homelike setting.
In Tokyo, the school is in the early phase of self-examination, exploring what it wants to be, what it practically can be, working out of a beautiful home setting, close to every imaginable resource, in one of the most exciting cities on the planet.
But I digress. This blog is meant to introduce you to the recent August activities at Tokyo Sudbury. I co-led an art and music camp with Sudbury head staff member Hiromo Imamura that was challenging because my usual approach when working with children is to “teach” them something new about art materials. The children had all come to explore and learn about art so there was nothing out of the ordinary about “teaching.” But I saw the potential of trying something different here with Hiromi. Instead of leading, we decided to follow the childrens’ interests. Instead of setting a time frame for art and music activities we let certain sessions go over time and others end sooner, depending upon the campers’ overall engagement.
As for choosing what we were going to do at the camp, I came with a plan. By midmorning the first day quite a bit of that plan was scrapped as I got to know the children and see what was driving their interest. For one child, it was the beautiful garden, for another it was new friendship, and so it went.
Art as a medium for story-telling was one activity on the agenda that I preserved as I could see how excited the children were to tell stories through the Genesis Cards. To read more about the Tokyo Sudbury School art and music camp, see photos and related captions here: