Joan Rubin School brings democratic learning to Boston

Cambridge resident Brooke Newman is one of the forces behind The Joan Rubin School, which would be the first Boston school to use the democratic learning model. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
Cambridge resident Brooke Newman is one of the forces behind The Joan Rubin School, which would be the first Boston school to use the democratic learning model. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Plans are in the works for a new, nonprofit day school in the Boston area that will offer a radically different environment from the vast majority of public and private school systems. 

It will be the first of its kind to operate in the immediate Boston area.

“One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to schools. I think kids in the city need access to a school like this,” said Cambridge resident Brooke Newman, 35, who is one of the founders of The Joan Rubin School.

According to school officials, students who attend the school will not be graded, nor will they be tested or separated into classrooms. There will be no mandated curriculum. Instead students will engage in “self-directed learning,” and will vote on what they want to do each day.

There will also be no summer vacations. Students must only attend the state-required 180 days and 900 hours of learning time — but that is just about the only rule at the school.

“There is no real teaching … all the learning comes from the intrinsic motivation of the children,” said Newman.

Having attended Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, a school that practices a similar democratic learning model, Newman maintains a strong belief that Boston needs the alternative learning environment, which she believe will encourages freedom, trust and respect.

The school may open as soon as September 2014 in a yet-to-be determined location within the Boston-area. After founders select the neighborhood, they will go before that community’s school board for approval to open the school, and Newman said they expect to get it.

Founders are scouting buildings in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. Once the location is determined, school officials will have a better idea of how much tuition will cost.

“We really want to make it beyond physically accessible. It should be financially accessible,” said Newman.

The school, which is named after Sudbury Valley Founder Joan Rubin, will be open to students between the ages of 5 and 19, and may take about 200 students. The age groups will not be separated, Newman said. Instead, pupils will be encouraged to mentor and learn from each other.

Although Newman has gotten a great deal of support, she has grappled with criticism.

“It’s hard. It challenging people’s notions of what learning is,” she said, pointing to what she calls “the saddest” feedback she’s gotten from skeptics. “I’ve heard, ‘Brooke, you’re crazy. Kids better get used to it,’ meaning they should get used to sitting at a desk, or having people tell them what to do. That’s sad. Is that the world we want? Not just for our children, but for ourselves?”

Co-founders will hold an informational session at the Cambridge Public Library at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 19.

More information on the school is available at www.joanrubinschool.org.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD: Suspect fleeing traffic stop shot by cop…

The NYPD said an officer temporarily reassigned for the Summer All Out program shot a suspect who slammed into two NYPD cars and hit a cop in Brooklyn.

Local

De Blasio and first family will travel to…

Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City's first family will travel to Italy later this month for a summer vacation.

Local

TIPS: How to take great photos during 'Manhattanhenge'

Grab your camera and make the perfect picture this Saturday.

National

Seinfeld emoji cound be available next week

Get your puffy shirts and your marble rye ready, America. Seinfeld emoji could become available as early as next week.

Gossip

PHOTOS: Topless Cara Delevingne advocates for 'Free the…

Supermodel Cara Delevingne is never one to shy away from the gaze of social media. Yesterday, she chose to advocate for the 'Free the Nipple' campaign via Instagram, where she…

Gossip

PHOTOS: Axelle Despiegelaere AKA "most beautiful" fan gets…

Axelle Despiegelaere, the "most beautiful" soccer supporter of this year's World Cup, was fired by L'Oreal for a hunting photo on her Facebook account.

Television

Final season of 'Glee' will be only 13…

The final season of "Glee" will officially be only 13 episodes, instead of the usual 22.

Entertainment

Complex characters, juicy scripts boost Netflix's Emmy nominations

The unconventional approach to TV at Netflix netted 31 Emmy nominations, a major achievement after plunging into original programing just last year.

NBA

GIF: LeBron James returns to Cleveland so deal…

To anyone out there who is upset about his decision, this .GIF is for you. Enjoy.

World Cup

A game of two popes: Vatican plays down…

By Philip PullellaVATICAN CITY (Reuters) - With Argentina meeting Germany in the World Cup final, the Vatican on Friday brushed aside talk of soccer rivalry…

NFL

Which Jets player has the best odds at…

Metro New York asked Bovada.LV to rank the top three contenders for the NFL MVP on the Jets.

World Cup

Argentina prevails in penalties, advances to final

The drama never seems to subside as the World Cup finally has its final two.

Wellbeing

Fart gas might prevent cancer

You might not like the smell, but fart gas might help prevent cancer.

Tech

Mesh sheds light on top 10 dating deal…

What are New Yorkers' top 10 dating deal breakers? Find out here.

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: Sexual headaches can be…

Sexual headaches: an under-discussed health issue Location: U.S. Results: If getting frisky brings on a headache, you’re not alone. Headaches associated with sexual activity represent a…

Food

Head to FiDi for free Chia Pods from…

They may have been last summer's darlings, but chia seeds have definitely not gone out of style. A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, they…