• What is an “open” school?

    In 2003, the staff of Mission Avenue Open School, with the encouragement of the principal, met to discuss what it meant to be an “open” school, and what open meant to us at our site. At a staff retreat at Camp Winthers, we were given the greater part of a day to share our ideas, debate them, and come to a consensus on what the guiding themes should be for Mission Avenue Open School. A document was then written that encapsulated all the ideas that we agreed upon and felt strongly about, and that is the statement reproduced below.

    As you can see, the document has been revisited and reaffirmed by our staff throughout the years, most recently in August of 2018. These are the ideas and themes that, with parent help, make Mission Avenue Open School one of the most enriching, exciting, and formative elementary schools in the state of California.

    -Bryon Martin, 6th Grade Teacher 


    The Open Philosophy of Mission Avenue Open School

    Mission Avenue Open School is guided by a unified philosophy that provides a high quality, comprehensive elementary school education. This is called the Open Philosophy and is based, in part, on Piaget’s developmental learning theory, Dewey’s constructivist learning theory, Montessori’s use of manipulative materials, and Kohl’s thematic, integrated curriculum.

    In Open classrooms, emphasis is placed on individuality and reaching each child’s potential. We have found that the best way to provide for this is through the following practices and themes:



    At its most basic, this term refers to the notion that all children should be recognized as unique beings with their own strengths and weaknesses. They shouldn’t be taught as if they were all at the same ability level with the same interests.
    We expect all students, no matter their starting points, to go further.
    We use flexible learning groups to target students’ needs, styles, and interests.


    Experiential Learning and Constructivism

    • We have long held true the proverb, I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.
    • We emphasize hands-on learning, the use of manipulative materials, and real life experiences.
    • Because we recognize that the environment is an extension of the classroom, we emphasize field education and community involvement as a critical part of real learning.
    • We emphasize the creation of products as an application of what we have learned.
    • We know that real learning is discovery, even if it’s guided, facilitated discovery, and we strive to communicate the sense of wonder inherent in learning new things.


    Student-Centered Collaborative Classrooms

    As a community, we care for the whole child and are concerned with each child’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development.
    We believe that even as academic standards are imbedded in the curriculum, the classroom and curriculum ought also reflect our students’ interests and that students should be given the power to explore their curiosity and imagination.


    Student Empowerment

    As educators, one of our chief goals is to teach our students to take responsibility for their own learning; by doing so we seek to create a community of self-learners.

    • We acknowledge that honoring student voice and student choice leads to the students’ feelings of empowerment and ownership in their own learning.
    • We teach with high expectations and emphasize quality.
    • We teach and promote student reflection and self-assessment.
    • We believe in cooperative participation in learning and in life. We emphasize doing one’s personal best, competing against oneself rather than against others, and working for intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards.

    At Mission Avenue Open School we are committed to the idea that parents are an integral part of the learning experience, both inside and outside the classroom. Learning is best accomplished when teachers, parents, and students work as a team. Hand in hand, as part of the team making academic choices, setting goals, and evaluating progress, students become responsible lifelong learners.

    We are committed to the Open Philosophy because we know that it works and we believe it is best for children. We welcome the participation of all families who embrace this philosophy, who recognize the remarkable, exciting, and distinguished learning community we’ve created at Mission Avenue Open School.

    The Faculty of Mission Avenue Open School

    November, 2003
    revisited and reaffirmed: August, 2005
    revisited and reaffirmed: September, 2008
    revisited and reaffirmed: August, 2018