In support of The Co-op School’s project-based learning approach, every classroom organizes a series of educational events throughout the year that include character studies, field trips, and creative expressions. The theme of each event varies based on student interest and engagement, and some examples are featured below. For more information about how these events make up our curriculum, visit or our program pages for the preschool, elementary, and middle school.
The Co-op School supports its anti-bias curriculum through character studies that represent diversity within a social justice framework. Character studies introduce students to diverse people from history and present times, and expose students to individuals and experiences otherwise unknown to them.
Whenever possible these character studies involve direct engagement with the subject.
Sample character study: Our 2s preschool class studied surfer-lifeguard-legend and Native Hawaiian Eddie Aikau. The class learned about Eddie’s love of the ocean, his surfing talent, and how he saves people’s lives on the beach. The study involved painting, videos and music, and even surfing with a real surfboard, and culminated with a phone call to Eddie to learn more about him.
Engaging students in the learning process means that they have a say in what they are learning about. Often projects lead to outcomes that are different from what students originally anticipated, and they learn to celebrate hard work and the process of learning. These celebrations occur through culmination events, during which other classes and family members are invited to see the class’s work and to learn about their discovery process.
Sample culmination event: Our 3s preschool class, the Crickets, completed self-portraits this year utilizing a variety of artistic processes as a way to develop a clear sense of self, which then enabled them to learn about their peers and their families. Students mixed paint to represent the various skin tones in the classroom, studied the differences in each other’s facial features and painted self-portraits. Projects were finished up with collaged pieces of colored paper that represented each student’s individuality. When the project was completed, the class invited friends and family to attend the Cricket Portrait Exhibition to share both the details and the process of their work.
From time to time our classrooms welcome experts from the community to speak about their area of knowledge to support and enhance the students’ studies. Topics covered have included computer coding, composting, break dancing, poetry, and electrical engineering. We also host in-school author visits during which children’s book authors are also invited to give readings, answer student questions, and sign books that parents purchase from a local independent bookstore.
Field trips are an important way for students to connect to the community that surrounds them and support project work such as character studies and also engage students in community action.
Sample field trip: To complement a study of New York City and its landmarks, the second graders visited the Highline Park in Manhattan. During this trip, students learned that the Highline started as a route for cargo to be transported, but the railway was eventually lifted 30 feet above ground in response to protests after a child was killed by a passing train. Students then learned that over the years the railway was abandoned due to the invention of new transportation technology, and finally it was transformed into the park it is today. This ties into some of the broader questions the second graders have been exploring: how the environment affects us and how communities adapt to their changing environments.
Winter and Spring Sings
Twice a year The Co-op School hosts its Winter and Spring Sings, which are opportunities for students to share the musical skills they’ve developed in class. Participants sing songs, play instruments, and perform dances for the greater Co-op School community and have a great deal of fun in the process!
Community Open Work
Community Open Work (COW) is a series of five one-hour sessions that take place each week from 8:30 am to 9:30 am in which our parents, guardians, and staff come together to share a skill or hobby they are passionate about with our elementary students. Each year is a revolving schedule of topics. Students each choose their top three choices and are then placed in small group. Students work together across grade levels on topics that range from Thai Chi to juggling, comic book making to Greek myths, knitting to jewelry making. That’s community action! Visit our Community Open Work page to see some of our projects.