My sons have found in Polaris a gentle refuge, particularly during this last year and a half of unpredictability. They arrive and are greeted by teachers and friends with warmth, knowing that the rhythms of their day will be honored in a way that brings ease and peace to their little hearts. My youngest is a highly creative spirit who loves to sing loudly, draw for hours, and listen to stories on repeat. The kindergarten room, hosted by his sage teacher, gives him all of the space, care and prompting he needs to dive into that part of himself without fear. It is beautiful to see. My eldest is hungry for knowledge and has found in his classroom a teacher who enjoys his curiosity and fuels him with special challenges and finds ways to bolster his social and emotional needs. There is a commitment at Polaris to truly know and meet each child where they are, even when they are having a difficult day.
The administrator is an empathetic, caring person who holds the culture of the school with such openness, generosity and security. As a young school, there is still much to be explored as the community grows into itself and discovers how best to actualize the skills and abilities of its vibrant and willing parent body and teachers. But there is much energy behind this, as well as for building greater presence in the broader community. The vision of the teachers and administration is a beautiful one, one that with collaborative effort from the families, will help realize a school that is completely unique and nourishing for all of its members. There is diversity in ideology and methodology in the circle of teachers, but the underlying values support a respectful relationship with parents and a kind and fair response to the individual development of each child.
The level of creativity in the teaching is what drew us to the school. The teachers prioritize not only the academic abilities of the child, but their social, creative, physical and spiritual development as well. This leads to a holistic teaching approach, through story, that allows each child to find their voice and spirit in how they desire to encounter the world and their learning. Our children's teachers have been exceptionally kind, aware and communicative, encouraging our boys to reach both within themselves and reach beyond themselves with curiosity. Some of the Waldorf curriculum may feel traditional at times, but under it lies some radical concepts that push it into the innovative sphere, particularly in how it views child development. In many ways it has been ahead of its time for quite some time!
Balance is the key ingredient in the Polaris curriculum, while also holding space for the child to lean into his/her unique skills and interests. It presents the child with opportunities for tactile and story-based learning, embodied exploration and collaborative problem-solving. I feel that it is the best equipment a child could receive: how to collaborate, how to trust your inner voice, how to take risks and see the potential in your mistakes, and how to think creatively and empathetically when engaging with ideas and the world. The program at Polaris, for us, is more than a set of curriculum standards. It is a space of playful exploration. Our children are naturally bright and curious, desiring to learn new things each day. What Polaris provides is a space where they can be curious while also tending to all the other key elements of the human experience.
As a young school, it is still developing its capacity to provide extracurricular experiences for the students and families. Beyond the seasonal fairs, the school has yet to elaborate on its programming outside of school hours. That said, there is natural and authentic community building happening as families invest in one another, which leads to rich opportunities for the children to connect with others, their interests, and other caring adults outside of school. This year will be the inaugural year for the Polaris Families Association which hopes to provide more community building and skills building opportunities for the children and families.
The student body is still small, but it is a caring and compassionate group. Most afternoons the families stay to play at the local park. It is not uncommon to see a student from grade 4 tending to the baby sibling of one of their friends. It's also not uncommon for children from different classes to know one another and look forward to playing together and sharing stories from their day, or helping each other learn a new skill. The social richness extends beyond the school hours. The spirit is certainly a quiet, gentle one, but that doesn't mean the students are themselves quiet! There is certainly lots of energy and enthusiasm. The sense of family, and of mutual responsibility is very strong. The students are very aware of one another and what makes each of them unique.
My children love going to school at Polaris, though this has much to do with their magnificent teachers and lovely friends. We tried other schools for our eldest and he wasn't able to release himself to play and be a child, freely expressing himself. As soon as we arrived at Polaris, it was like he took a deep breath for the first time and let himself be fully himself. Since then, he has allowed his feelings to fluctuate while still knowing that Polaris is the right place to bring all of those feelings, without shame, even when it's hard. I think the hallways present a different story for the children than the warm cocoons of their classrooms, but this has to do with some needed renovations! It also has to do with what parents bring to the space. As we work towards building a Families Association, we can start to support the parents/families more holistically as well, so that they know that they can safely bring themselves and their feelings to school too!
I love the parents at this school. We, as a family, have long sought a community that could hold an inclusive posture with nuance, care and creativity. This is it. The level of inner-work, awareness and openness in the parent body is next level. And it is only growing as we begin to design more concrete ways to support one another, provide space for each other to be heard, and work on healthy conflict resolution in a way that models for our children what truly equitable collaboration looks like. It is certainly an ideals-based community, but that helps to focus energy and vision on core values that will enrich everyone's journey. And there is still lots of space for varying ideals! I cannot emphasize enough how resilient this community has shown itself to be.
The school building itself leaves a bit to be desired, however, once you enter the classrooms it is magical. The school is working on improving the entrance and hallway experience so that it better reflects the kind of peace and wonder it hopes to inspire in the children. That said, the outdoor spaces that are used by the school are lovely. As a centrally located school, it can be hard to find diverse ecosystems and green spaces, enough to fuel the imagination of young children. But this school has it, in the mature trees, different soils, snow hills, foliage and urban wildlife. And the teachers teach the children how to notice and pay attention to the beauty, no matter where they are! The building is shared with other organizations and groups, which provides unique opportunities for the children and community to partner in meaningful ways. The school is in the process of drawing up plans to revive a green house on the top of floor of the building that will be shared with a seniors group for multi-generational programming.