Parents looking at schools often ask why Friends School of Minnesota has mixed-age classrooms. In short, we believe that mixed-age classrooms room build community – which is a core Quaker value and a foundation of progressive education. Learning to work with people of different ages and abilities is what life is all about. Classrooms are great places to start.
A mixed-age classroom:
- builds community. Cooperative, community learning flourishes in mixed-age, multi-ability classrooms.There is less competition and a greater feeling of family.
- lets students be well known. Teachers get to know each student’s strengths and challenges more deeply than they can in a single year – leading to better informed and more effective teaching strategies.
- saves time. Teachers spend less time each new school year getting to know their new class as they already know half of their students. Classroom routines are modeled by the older students and so are quickly mastered by the new students. This means more time for higher level learning.
- lets kids work at their own level. Mixed-age classes give students broader academic opportunities.
“The students accept each other’s learning strengths and challenges. They seem to understand that learning is an individual process and they don’t label information as limited to third or fourth grade. In the two year classroom, many of the students learn from and are inspired by other student’s explorations. They have the time to really delve into a particular subject over the two years. I love it!” – Kak, Third-Fourth Grade Teacher
- lets kids be leaders and mentors. Older students learn a lot from helping, teaching and nurturing younger children.
“My second graders enjoy being the older children in the class and are always willing to help the first graders when they need it, and doing so helps strengthen their own skills and understanding.” – Janet, First-Second Grade Teacher
- lets students stretch and accomplish more. Younger children observe and join in more complex activities with their older peers.
- provides larger peer groups. In a small school like FSM, having mixed-age classrooms expands the number of classrooms we have, allowing children to branch out socially.
How does Friends School of Minnesota mix classrooms?
- After kindergarten, FSM lower school classrooms have balanced numbers of first-second and third-fourth graders.
- Middle school humanities and specialists classes (art, music, phy ed and Spanish) are fifth-sixth and seventh-eighth grade combinations.
- Middle school advisories are small groups of fifth-eighth graders.
- Note: Kindergarten is single age (everyone is five by Sept. 1).
- Note: Math is taught in single-grade classes K-8th grade – as is middle school science.