Lagunitas School’s Open Classroom program is gearing up for its 50th anniversary celebrations this spring and looking for its alumni to get involved. The entire month of April will be an alumni art show exhibited at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, followed by a reunion party on May 14, which will include the unveiling of a ceramic mural that was first begun at the 25th anniversary reunion.
Amy Valens, a former teacher at Open Classroom and a lead organizer for the events, is looking for more graduates to get involved. “For the art show we would like alumni artists to submit a current piece of art along with something they did as a student at Open,” she said. “We will be looking for musicians to perform on May 14. We would like blog posts for the website. Also, leading up to May we would like to host more events that are led by alumni. Basically, any way people feel like contributing is welcome. This is the Open Classroom, after all!”
The elementary program was started in 1971 as a progressive and pragmatic approach to public education. It emphasizes project-based learning, parent participation, conflict resolution, interaction between grade levels, freedom to move about the classroom, and social and emotional learning that helps students become self-reliant, spontaneous, proactive and responsible.
Jasper Thelin graduated from Open Classroom as a sixth grader in 1981 and sent his own kids through the school. He is certain that his time in the program helped prepare him for success, and it informs his own teaching methods. “It was up to you as the student to get your work done each week,” he said. “We had the freedom to choose our own adventure, but also came together as a group to speak and listen. Learning executive functions was powerful for me later on.”
Mr. Thelin is in his 22nd year of teaching drama, art and integrational studies at Archie Williams High School in San Anselmo. As an alumnus, he is still involved with Open Classroom and hopes other alumni will do the same. “Connecting with and supporting current families and staff is a big part of the mission. I want the work we are doing to be in perpetuity and not in nostalgia,” he said.
If you are an alum and would like to be involved in the celebrations, you can send art submissions to Huda al-Jamal at firstname.lastname@example.org; for event ideas, blog posts or other engagement opportunities, email Amy at email@example.com.