New Education Program Launches in Santa Barbara Focused on Student-Led Learning | School zone

An educational program that lets students choose what they learn is coming to the Central Coast with Santa Barbara Free School starting in September.

Educators and partners Jesse Resnick and Madeline Kimlin were first introduced to the idea of ​​”unschooling” – learning guided by students’ interests and curiosities, allowing children to choose what they learn – through a family in France as they traveled around the world by motorbike during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After spending time exploring different forms of education and completing internships at several self-directed and democratic schools on the East Coast, Resnick and Kimlin are now bringing together elements of these programs for Santa Barbara’s first self-directed educational program.

“Conventional top-down education is not real learning,” Resnick said. “Real learning comes from within.”

Students are required to register with the state as homeschoolers to participate in the program, according to Resnick and Kimlin. The Santa Barbara Free School website states that the annual tuition is $12,000.

Santa Barbara Free School’s self-governing, democratic philosophy includes no curriculum, no teachers, no age segregation, and no grades.

Adult staff members act as mentors and resource-connectors for students, and through weekly school meetings, adults and students will work together to make decisions about school administration.

The program will encourage students to learn by doing, and instead of asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Resnick and Kimlin want students to think about, “What do I want to do now?”

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Jesse Resnick, co-founder of the Santa Barbara Free School, shows off a program that students and staff will use. (Photo by Serena Guentz/Noozhawk)

Resnick and Kimlin said they were frequently asked how students would learn the basics or basic subjects. They said students would naturally learn these basics as a byproduct of their interests or passions.

“The ‘basics’ are so important to functioning independently in our world that self-directed students eventually have a very good reason for acquiring them, and, motivated by that reason, do so quickly,” the school’s website states.

Resnick also said that on day one, students will be presented with a budget which they will decide how to spend throughout the year, alongside adult staff.

Santa Barbara Free School is based in the Center for Arts and Culture at 1330 State St. downtown, providing close access to several parks, museums, theaters, and historic sites for students to explore.

The program’s first cohort this fall will have up to 25 students ages 12 to 16, and Resnick and Kimlin ultimately aim to open the program to students ages 5 to 18.

Students will be required to attend at least four days a week for at least four hours a day, with the program running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday from September to June.

Activities outside of school, such as internships, classes, sports, and employment, are also encouraged and may count toward required attendance.

All students will also be required to attend weekly school meetings every Wednesday. Kimlin said these meetings are where the community aspect happens, and where students and staff will collectively make deals and involve collaboration, debate, compromise and connection.

Santa Barbara Free School
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The Santa Barbara Free School will be based at the downtown arts and culture center, though much of the program also takes place off-campus. (Photo by Serena Guentz/Noozhawk)

While many of the self-governing schools that Resnick and Kimlin have spent time in focus on the individual, the Santa Barbara Free School will also emphasize the community.

“The individual is just as important as your responsibility to your community and your natural environment,” Resnick said.

Other features of the program include mentoring programs and cooperatives in which students and staff will come together around a common interest and be responsible for bringing that subject into the school.

For example, there may be an art co-op or a travel co-op where members will be responsible for finding materials and training others in their use, sharing skills, or finding a teacher – whether within the school or within the wider community – to organize events, and anything else related to this interest at school.

“All areas of the school are administered by the students themselves,” Resnick said.

Resnick and Kimlin also pointed out that students in self-administered schools enter college at the same rate as students in traditional schools, and are often more attractive to colleges with the history and experience students gain. in self-managed and democratic programs.

“It’s very exciting,” Kimlin said of the upcoming program, as prospective students and staff have already started discussing and brainstorming ideas together. “There is so much going on. … There are endless things to do.

“Our goal is to create a school that will serve Santa Barbara for generations to come,” Resnick said.

Registration details and more information can be found on the school’s website.

– Noozhawk editor Serena Guentz can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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