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10 Essential Elements of Vandermont's Learner-Driven Community

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Joseph Campbell

I'd add to what Joseph said: "And you find out who you are by being with other people."

This shows a paradox about the Vandermont community we're trying to build: learning is very individualized, but only because it's based on community.

I will show the kids this by hanging a picture of aspen trees in the school. Aspens all have a large root system that they share. Because of this shared system, each tree lives longer and is stronger. The health of the root system affects the health of everything else. (Fast fact: Their white outer powder coating layer can also be used as a natural SPF in a pinch!)

In a Vandermont studio, life is like this. Each learner is unique. Everyone needs everyone else to learn and grow. Another perplexing thing about the Vandermont community is that our students try to become very independent, but then they realize how much they need each other to do well. The end goal is to go from being dependent to being independent to being interdependent.

Walking through our studios, you can feel the energy that comes from the interaction between the individual and the group.

But it's not a strange or magical force.

It's an energy formulated on purpose by putting 10 essential elements layered on top of the belief that every child is unique and capable of reaching their highest potential when given the opportunity, environment, and skills to do so.

The elements are:

  1. Every child is full of potential for personal greatness.

  2. Growth Mindset

  3. Contracts

  4. Mixed ages

  5. The Socratic Method

  6. Trial and Error learning

  7. Excellence

  8. Freedom and Responsibility

  9. Frequent Public Presentations of Learning

  10. The Teacher as a Guide – a unique role for an adult

I can’t wait to dig into each of these over the next few weeks. In preparation for the next blog post, you may want to ponder this: What’s your story?

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