To encourage students to build a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with the world through their creative exploration. Our environment and curriculum are designed to nurture the unfolding development of the “whole child,” including academic knowledge and skills as well as artistic, reflective, intuitive and interpersonal knowledge and abilities. The school emphasizes each child’s unique interests, strengths, and personality within a supportive, cooperative, caring community of learners.
We view education from a holistic perspective which means, first, we are concerned with the whole child - emotional, social, physical, moral, spiritual, artistic and creative as well as intellectual dimensions of their development - and second, that every child’s life is connected to wider contexts of experience - peers, family, community, culture, and the natural world.
Like all progressive educators, we see children as natural learners and honor that principle. We recognize that children come to the classroom with many gifts, multiple intelligences and languages, full potential, uniqueness, and natural curiosity. We strive to design a learning environment and to use teaching practices that support children’s characteristic ways of exploring, discovering, and constructing their knowledge of the world. Teachers draw forth the intrinsic motivation of each child so that learning becomes an interactive process that values imagination, creativity, and joy, fostering a love of learning. Instead of dividing up the mind and the body, science and the humanities, action and thought, intelligence and emotion, holistic education seeks to bring these together. In this way, we foster the values of both independence of each learner and interdependence of all subjects as well as all aspects of life. Holistic education seeks to foster a sense of connection to both the natural world and the human community; we feel this approach cultivates social as well as ecological responsibility, a compassionate sense of wonder, and genuine self-understanding.
Teachers at Bellwether join children in their sense of wonder as they learn. Teachers work to develop relationships with each child at Bellwether, to understand each child as a unique individual, and to help facilitate their learning. Teachers collaborate with students by sensitively observing, listening, actively participating in, and documenting discoveries. Through these elements, teachers guide learning by providing appropriate materials and activities, asking provocative questions, and by supporting creative risk-taking. Teachers encourage children to make connections, see relationships, and take multiple perspectives throughout their learning. Teachers at Bellwether seek to develop critical and reflective thinking skills allowing students to construct their own learning and knowledge through inquiry.
The Bellwether School was founded in 1995 by Ron Miller, an internationally known author and publisher in holistic education. He believed that Bellwether would be distinctive in designing its entire program around holistic principles; in other words, Bellwether would become an important model school, a true bellwether.
The school he envisioned would practice holistic, developmentally based, learner-centered educational methods and offer an integrated curriculum emphasizing the arts and experiential activities in the community and in the world of nature. In his founding words:
"The term "holistic" refers to an underlying philosophy of education that emphasizes connectedness, integration, context and meaning: The learner is viewed as a whole person, with emotional, social, aesthetic, moral and spiritual qualities nourished along with intellectual potentials; a group of learners and teachers are viewed as a community with a dynamic life of its own; the curriculum does not divide experience into separate subject areas or time periods but aims for integrated, meaningful understanding; and the ultimate purpose of education is seen as a deeply felt connection with both the natural world (ecological literacy) and the social and cultural world (social responsibility). In short, holistic education does not strive so much for eventual career success as for cultivating a compassionate sense of wonder, a knowledge of one’s cultural and ecological roots, and deep self-understanding.
"Developmentally-based education is an approach that recognizes the inherent patterns of intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual unfolding within every young person. In essence, a developmental approach asserts that children do not gain an authentic understanding of the world by having preselected facts, ideas, texts, and ‘curriculum units’ delivered to them by adults, but that they construct their knowledge by interacting with their environment according to the characteristic capacities of each stage of development. It is the educator’s task to stimulate and call to these capacities, turning the learner loose to experiment, explore and discover."
Bellwether became a Vermont nonprofit corporation on November 21, 1994 and opened its doors for children ages 3-8 in September 1995. The school added an Elementary program (grades 2 through 6) in the fall of 2000.