Excerpts from The Alternative: School Within a School:
Whoever thought it was a good idea to let squirrelly adolescents design their own curriculum wasn’t completely nuts.
Much to everyone’s surprise at Drake, some of us managed to get rather conventional educations at SWAS. I studied Trigonometry and Analytic Geometry [which] taught me enough Calculus to pass the AP math test.
I no longer wanted to stand out in a crowd; I needed to belong to one. SWAS was exactly that – a crowd of unique people.
There is no doubt that the project trips provided the most important teaching/learning experiences - and not always in lessons we intended.
Yet it somehow never occurred to me at the time—the teachers not only put up with it but seemed to enjoy it. The tap dancing, the hammering, the constant painting, the tree-climbing: they didn’t just put up with it, it seems they encouraged and delighted in it. They believed our energy and enthusiasm were essential to our learning.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about SWAS was the ability of the program to teach at once the importance and value of community, while at the same time helping students gain the personal strength to be individuals.
Before there was Restorative Justice, SWAS had the Grievance Committee; before anyone ever spoke the word Mindfulness, Paul Ehrlich and I taught yoga to the whole school; before anyone touted Project-Based Learning, we had semester-long project groups; before the emphasis on building students’ self-esteem, we had weekly Support Groups; and before any focus on Academies or the Small Schools Movement, we had ... SWAS.