Hudson Valley Sudbury School
Being able to push myself to my next goal, whatever that may be, that is the ability I need to function independently in the world I am about to enter. And I have it.
FACTS & FIGURES
Ages of young learners served
Young learners served
Young learners who received financial aid
We can talk about learner-centered education until we’re all blue in the face, but no amount of words can replace the feeling a learner-centered environment evokes when visiting in-person. This “feeling” is what defines the transformational work happening at Hudson Valley Sudbury School (HVSS) in Kingston, New York.
HVSS prides itself on creating an environment of empowerment, safety, trust, and accountability—all of which come about organically thanks to their guiding philosophy: Young learners should “have total control over what they learn, how they learn, their educational environment, and how they are evaluated.”
This philosophy naturally leads to the cultivation of learner agency, which is further enhanced during “Hitting the Wall” moments—an expression used at HVSS to describe times in learning and life where the “what’s next?” of the journey is unclear. Such moments can be minor, like determining what to do with one’s time if a scheduled activity gets canceled. Or, they can feel far more intense, like when an interest fizzles out and the quest for inspiration starts all over again.
Although young learners are given the wheel to steer their learning, they are not navigating alone. HVSS is a socially embedded environment where adults and young learners alike are supporting each other’s journeys. If “what’s next” is unclear, a young learner can collaborate with their peers and mentors—gathering as much information and advice as possible to make the decision that best matches the vision they hold for their future.
As such, young learners at HVSS are constantly engaged in learning that is personalized, relevant, and contextualized. There is no predetermined curriculum or “must haves” when it comes to their learning journey. The leaders at HVSS believe the basics like reading and arithmetic show up naturally within any interest a young learner pursues—and this belief has proven itself to be true again and again over their 15 years in existence.
Take for instance a young man who was really excited by the idea of running the cash register at the learning environment’s commissary. He lacked confidence in his mathematical ability. But, he was so driven to engage with customers and help complete transactions that he mustered up the courage to become a certified cashier (through an internal training program) and now handles making change without a shadow of a doubt in his ability to do so.
Pursuing an interest that required fundamental arithmetic skills development allowed the young learner to develop these skills that can now be transferred to other areas of his life. He didn’t need a siloed math class. Rather, he needed a context that motivated him to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to use mathematics successfully. And, once he’s ready to explore open-walled opportunities in the Kingston community, he’ll be able to showcase his newfound skill to potential internship hosts (e.g. an early childhood education center, a music production studio, and political organizations) who have formed fruitful partnerships with HVSS.
The paths for learning at HVSS are nearly limitless. Once again, it all happens thanks to the founding philosophy of putting young people, without exception, in the driver’s seat of their own learning.
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