A Uniquely Vigorous School

A Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous SchoolA Uniquely Vigorous School


2:18 pm | September 5, 2013

Schools have been pretty much unchanged in the last hundred years, and while not necessarily a bad thing, the potential to be better has been stifled a bit. However, every once in a while, progressive institutions such as Walden School appear to mix things up a bit in a good way.

Walden School‘s uniqueness is what makes it great. But what makes it so different from the others?

Walden School Director Matt Allio says, “The idea behind the school is we consider ourselves a progressive school, if you contrast it with more traditional schools. At Walden, what we really believe is that education is an instrument for social change.”

Allio has been with Walden since 2004. Being the previous head of Live Oak School in San Francisco, as well as working at Crane School in Santa Barbara, Allio has been in the teaching profession for 32 years.

In the school’s website, Allio describes Walden’s academic program as ‘vigorous,’ as opposed to ‘rigorous,’ because unlike the unbending quality of rigid training, its programs are full of life and vigor.

Founded in 1970, Walden is a Pre-K through 6th grade school that currently has 225 students enrolled. Unlike other schools, the purpose of the education at Walden is vastly different. Allio says, “In some schools, education is in place to keep the status quo intact; at Walden, education is in place to enable our students to thoughtfully question the status quo.”

To improve society, adds Allio, not just maintain it.

Even the ‘center of gravity’ in the school is different. Allio explains, “in the more traditional school the teacher and the texts are clearly the center of gravity when you walk in the room. At Walden, you walk in and you can tell the center of gravity is the child.”

Additionally, students are also taught to think in the plural, No “I’s,” just “we,” says Allio. “In a lot of schools, it’s ‘How did I do in that test room? Where am I going after school? What do I have for homework? Who are my friends?’ At Walden, it’s ‘How did we do in that test? Where are we going after school? How did our team do? What do we have for homework?’”

The school also champions the idea of reflection. In fact, the Walden name comes from a book by Henry David Thoreau, “Walden Pond.” Allio explains, “What Thoreau did was he went to his cabin in 1848-1850 and he reflected upon the things that he thought were important. We want students to be reflective and not reactive in their education.”

This “reflection” works through Socratic discussion. It starts when teachers give students “a series of choices that they’re able to make during the day. Let’s say if you have a four-year old and there’s a playtime in the Pre-K room, there might be choices that they can explore in the Pre-K room,” Allio explains. “Then once they make that choice, the teacher’s job is to facilitate discussion: ‘Why did you make that choice? What help do you need in working through this project or working through this academic piece or play piece?’”

The key to this method is by having the choices changed during the course of the year. Allio adds, “In Montessori they call them jobs. There are different jobs that are rotating during the school year. The teacher explains it and then there’s dialogue around the choices that the children make.”

Aside from the programs and teaching methods, Walden School’s progressiveness also shows through its green initiatives. “We have the first permitted photovoltaic canopy at the entrance of our school,” says Allio. It’s designed to get the school off the power grid, though not completely off it yet. “It’s a demonstration panel, but that’s an initiative that we put in place this summer, a photovoltaic canopy over the gateway of the school.”

Additionally, the school also has its own environmental stewards, students who are committed to helping the environment. Walden School also has the first commercial rainwater harvesting tank in Pasadena. “So we’re able to reuse rainwater that runs at about 600 gallons from just half an inch of rain from one of our rooftops. It gets filtered into the tank that we’re able to use to irrigate the different parts of our campus,” adds Allio.

Progressive and forward thinking rules at Walden School. Whether through its academic programs or its green initiatives, the school is one of the finest schools in the area.

Walden School is located at 74 South San Gabriel Blvd.

To learn more about Walden School, visit http://www.waldenschool.net or call (626) 792-6166 for more details.