Progressive Education in Pre-K through 8th Grade

Progressive education is a movement dedicated to educating the whole child, with an emphasis on social justice.  At Greene Hill School (GHS) we are guided by these meaningful principles every day. GHS works continually towards being an anti-racist institution and designs our curriculum and program to uphold the rich variety of lived experiences within our community and world.

In the 1900s, during the Progressive Era of reform, socially-minded activists and educational theorists aligned their theories of progressivism with those of earlier philosophers. Their beliefs about child development, such as the importance of active engagement and educating the whole person, have influenced the core principles of progressive education to this day. 

For over 60 years, John Dewey (1859-1952) shaped progressive educational theory and practice.  The Laboratory School in Chicago became a place for his research and observations and led to the writing of numerous articles and books.  Dewey codified the way we think of progressive education today in books like “The School and Society”  and “Democracy in Education.” 

A general summary of Dewey’s philosophy includes the following tenets:

  • Education is a process of living, not a preparation for living.
  • Curriculum should be based on children’s interests with some structure provided by adults.
  • The most meaningful experiences for children are ones rooted in their current stage of development and the scientific method.
  • School should prepare children to be fully participatory members of a democratic society.
  • School should be equally concerned with the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs of the child.

Progressive education has gone in and out of favor over the years, depending on the current cultural landscape. Educators throughout the world, and from many traditions, have practiced pedagogy in ways that we consider progressive; supporting students in building their intrinsic motivation, engaging in real world or active problem solving, caring for a child’s emotional well being and complex identities, and connecting deeply with their families. 

At Greene Hill, our interdisciplinary curriculum is organized around yearlong themes that are developmentally appropriate and inspiring.  

4s Class Self & Others
5s Class Growth
6s Class Community
7s Class Systems
8s Class Movement
9s Class Law
10s Class Culture
6th Grade Perspective
7th Grade Power
8th Grade Citizenship and Democracy