I highly recommend this school to parents who want their kids to learn the value and joys of contributing to their community (in the 3 yrs my older child has been at TC she has released salmon that her class raise, pulled invasive plants along local trails, and discuss kid issues such as gossiping and bullying with each other), and a love of learning (their field trips and outings are tied to their academic requirements). They also learn the academics that come with a great elementary education. Here are comments from my two kids at Thornton Creek. 4th grader: "I love all the field trips and the fun things we do and learn. I think Thornton Creek has many great programs and they make math, reading, and writing fun. I learned about tide pools and phytoplankton in 1st grade. In 2nd grade I learned about salmon and their lifecycle. In 3rd grade I learned about Native Americans in the Northwest Coast. 3rd was my favorite year so far. This year I will be in 4th grade. From the experience I've had from other grades, I feel excited about starting fourth grade." 1st Grader: "I liked kindergarten, especially my teacher. She made everything fun. I learned how to write and tell stories."
We just finished our first year of K at Thornton Creek. I love the hands on learning approach at this school and I witnessed a phenomenal play studied, written and created by one 5th grade class whose expedition was the Human Body (I wish they had performed for my college physiology class - I would have had a better grasp of macrophages, T cells, and more!) One first grade class expedition had to do with Playgrounds and each student designed 3-D models of their ideal playground (after considering weather, balls&slides science kits and more) and they presented their model and read a paragraph to a team of architects and the principal! If only all students could learn in such a setting! One negative is that each student at TC has a different series of expeditions and not all of them are nearly as phenomenal as the ones I just mentioned. The school is definitely overcrowded now, as SPS is gearing up to double the size in 2016, when a new building is opened. This may change the overall flavor of the school and in the meantime has recess and lunchtime and school assemblies bursting at the seams. (They no longer pay to be officially an "expeditionary learning school", BTW)
My children learned to think and be independent learners at AE2 in the 90's . I was not happy with the math instruction so I taught them at home. My kids learned to have great respect for our environment. (Salmon was big thing when they went to AE2 which was bewildering to a group of east coasters.) As a family we learned to hike and camp through school activities, as a parent I learned to let my children explore the world with fewer restrictions. The greatest thing my kids learned was acceptance for individual differences. The students varied widely in term of ability but all had something to contribute to the enterprise at hand be it a haunted house or pressing cider. (about 1/3 of the kids at time were learning disabled and rest were highly capable (and some were both.) ) Its like a private school in terms of out come ,All three kids have achieved academically and socially at levels I didn't think possible because they learned to be academically and physically self reliant. My kids are all Ivy league graduates, trained professionals capable of almost anything having adventurous lives
Thornton Creek certainly has it's enthusiastic advocates among the parent body. However, those who claim it's "like a private school in a public school setting" have clearly never had direct experience with private schools. Granted, TCS is doing a valiant job in light of the massive problems of SPS. But, it's still plagued by district politics, funding concerns, and large class sizes of varied ability. It's simply not comparable to private. Our child attended several years, bookended by private school experiences. While we yearned to support the public school system and 'walk our talk' by participating with our children's attendance, TCS simply couldn't meet our child's needs for challenging academics. The school-- particularly the parent body-- place an enormous emphasis on "social development." However, in my opinion, these values need not come at the expense of academic rigor. Yet, the TCS teachers we've encountered have overtly played to the middle, academically. For example our child's teacher told our high-achieving 2nd grader that he'd need to wait until middle school to be with kids of his ability in math and to have math curriculum that would interest and challenge him.
Our daughter attended Thornton Creek & is now a successful student at Roosevelt High School. Pros: Mixed-grade classes, theme-based learning, an emphasis on teaching how to learn. Students find answers through experiments, projects, etc. Style of math is a process (not rote method). Parent involvement & community is wonderful! Very dedicated teachers, staff & administrators. Cons: Our daughter didn't like the way they taught math. However, she's in honors math getting straight A's! She needed more rote memorization of math facts (times tables, etc); we did that at home. Perhaps this school attracts more 'ADD' students due to their style of learning by doing? They spend a lot of $$ to be an 'Expeditionary Learning' school, but I think they could spend the $$'s better by investing it in reducing class size & overall funding, and still learn through theme-based exploration without being a designated 'Expeditionary Learning' school.
My kids have been at this school for 7 years and it is a phenomenal school. The school philosophy is to teach the whole child rather than just the academic child. There is ample opportunity to get involved in the classroom, whether as a book group leader, assisting in math class, assisting on field trips, or other ways. The parent community is very supportive. Parents communicate between each other, volunteer for all school events, such as Talent's Night, the annual bazaar, leading school tours, etc. My daughter has since left the school and is doing great academically in middle school. And she also has empathy for other kids... I've been thrilled with being part of the Thornton Creek community.
We transferred our child from a private school to a public school in 2nd grade and have not regretted the decision. Our child is thriving and enjoying each of her experiences. We feel she is learning core skills but through different modalities of learning and content. She is having fun, making friends and is becoming a solid student. What more could you ask for? We are thrilled to be sending our son with special needs; although we expect challenges - we know that the caring adults of staff and parents will assist in him being able to thrive.
Expeditionary learning, a robust community, diversity in the student body, and a huge playground that sports an unabashedly open 'dirt area.'
Thornton Creek truly understands and respects children and families and finds a way to bring out the best in both. I have the utmost respect for the dedicated staff and countless volunteers who make this dynamic and positive community thrive! Both my kids, despite their dramatic learning style differences, have been excited to go to school every day. What more could I ask?
Now that my oldest child has moved on from Thornton Creek school to middle school I now have a greater perspective on the solid educational foundation this school gave her. She has placed into all honors courses, and is thriving! She has a lovely, diverse group of friends and exudes self-confidence. We were somewhat concerned that her transition from an elementary school that gives so much individual attention to a very large middle school would be difficult, but those worries were completely unfounded. At Thornton Creek, she learned how to be responsible for her learning, take pride in her accomplishments, work effectively with others on group projects, and take constructive criticism with grace. All that, paired the solid academics at Thornton Creek have laid a solid foundation for her future academic experiences. Great school!
Now named Thornton Creek this school is like a private school in a public school setting. This school celebrates the whole child. Never before have I met such confident well spoken polite children. This school is rich in blending traditonal acedemics with science, art, music, dance, and theater esp. through the annual classroom expeditions. There are high expectations at this school for students to succeed acedemically, socailly, and emotionally. This school is very inclusive and fosters a sense of belonging and community. Children here have a strong sense of self responsibility esp. in regard to their work and how they work as a team (and how they treat others). Thornton Creek has a high degree of parental involvement and honesly feels more like a cooperative school. This school is great for alternative families as well. Love this school!
AE2 (now Thornton Creek) has been wonderful for my outgoing, creative and enthusiastic child. I feared that a 'traditional school,' where he might be expected to sit still at a desk all day, could turn him off to the joy of learning. At Thornton Creek, his energy and creativity are embraced and respected. He is invited to explore subjects and learn in many ways. Questions are always open-ended, so students can explore subjects that interest them in great depth. And the many field trips help kids make real-world connections to the subjects they are studying in school. Thornton Creek encourages children to assess their own effort/skills and set goals for the year. There are still standard assessments, but I like how the kids take responsibility for their own success. The expeditions make in-depth learning fun and engaging, and I am always delighted with the end-of-the-year performances, exhibits, etc.
This is a great school. There is a really strong sense of community. The teachers are for the most part highly capable. The kids always seem happy to be at school. The school seems to foster a great sense of responsibility and self worth.
AE2/Decatur has a mission of educating the whole child, and largely lives up to it. Students are taught how to take responsibility of themselves, their school, and their learning; they really seem to embrace the expectations and thrive. Parents are very involved both in the classrooms (reading with small groups, sharing special knowledge/expertise, fieldtrips) and outside the classrooms (school governance, new parent orientation and tours, fundraising -- I like that fundraising is very successful without requiring us to sell 'stuff'). The expeditions foster an indepth type of learning that I see carried over into the study of other classroom subjects -- thinking critically about things and being able to ask good questions is a great skill to foster at this age. AE2 doesn't do a very good job of promoting itself. Student teams win many competitions (math, writing, archery, etc.) but only the AE2 community seems to hear about it.
We transferred our APP-qualified child from a local private school to AE2, and have never regretted the decision. This school has a strong culture of academic excellence and community values, recognizing that teaching consists of educating the whole child: academically, emotionally, and socially. I like that students take age-appropriate ownership of their education and of their school, which (talking to families of 'graduates') serves them well in middle school and beyond. Students are truly engaged in their classes and are encouraged to ask questions, work collaboratively, and share what they have learned with their classmates and teacher. I have heard one parent complain that AE2 kids 'talk too much in class'; this parent wanted to see students at their desks, silently working on their assignments. But I think kids learn best in an interactive environment, and the success of AE2 students bears that out. It's a wonderful school!
Some teachers are great, others are not. Academics are O.K., but are not consistent. Some classes are somewhat structured, others are very loose and chaotic, school does give parents a say in which class the child is placed in. Due to lack of discipline and upholding of rules, student safety is an issue, with many incidents. Due to the 'alternative' nature of the school and parent mindset, students have a lack of respect for authority, and feel it OK to challenge and argue with adults. They don't listen and are disrepectful. Though there is not any physical bullying, there is a lot of negative interaction between students, including put downs, and exclusion (though the school will tell you the children are very inclusive). All in all if you have a child with special needs (ADD etc)you may like AEII, but if you have an average child, look elsewhere.
We were somewhat dissapointed in our daughter's experience AE II. The teachers were very interested in being on the leading edge of educational theory sometimes to the detriment of the students.
Alternative in the sense of emotional understanding and respectful community relationships. the school teaches through expeditionary learning and recognizes that children learn at differnt paces. They are structured without being repressive.The grades are mixed with emphasis on the older kids mentoring younger. I have seen literally no bullying or stutus teasing. Kids are kids and there are strong personal;ities here, they are dealt with respectively. the school fundraises and employs a full time counselor who is phenomenal. If you are concerned with your childs emotional as well as academic education this is a great school.
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