How We Teach

Progressive Education: The Aurora Way

Adapted from Alfie Kohn’s article, “Progressive Education: Why it’s Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find”

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Attending to the whole child

Progressive educators are concerned with helping children become not only good learners but also good people.
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Children learn with and from one another in a caring community, and that’s true of social-emotional as well as academic learning.
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Progressive schools are characterized by a “working with” rather than a “doing to” model. There’s an emphasis on collaborative problem-solving.
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Social justice

A sense of responsibility for others isn’t confined to the classroom; indeed, students are helped to locate themselves in widening circles of care that extend beyond self, beyond friends, beyond their own communities, and beyond their own country.
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Intrinsic motivation

When considering educational policies and practices, the first question that progressive educators are likely to ask is, “What’s the effect on students’ interest in learning, their desire to continue reading, thinking, and questioning?”
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Deep understanding

Facts and skills do matter, but in a context and for a purpose. Progressive education is organized around problems, projects, and questions. The point is not merely to challenge students, but to invite them to think deeply about issues that matter and help them understand ideas from the inside out.
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Active learning

In progressive schools, students play a vital role in helping to design the curriculum, formulate the questions, seek out (and create) answers, think through possibilities, and evaluate how successful they have been. Learning is a matter of constructing ideas rather than passively absorbing information or practicing skills.
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Taking kids seriously

Progressive educators take their cue from the children — and are particularly attentive to differences among them. Teachers will have broadly conceived themes and objectives in mind and take detours to meet the needs and interests of their students.

How we teach

Service Learning

Students and adults at Aurora engage in both service learning and community service at all grade levels on a consistent basis.

Observation and Assessment

Formal and informal authentic assessments occur throughout the school year for every child.

Skills, Not Tests

We do not use standardized testing when measuring or evaluating our students. Students in upper grades practice test-taking skills as a part of the curriculum in preparation for standardized tests.


Through yearly performance productions, students learn to weave all they have learned during the school year into a stage production. Together they create, collaborate, design, and learn a variety of drama skills.

Partner Pals

Twice a month, Aurora students buddy up with an Aurora student who is not in their grade level. Together they engage in social-emotional curricula and community service activities while building community.

Community Creators

Every year, for two weeks in October, students explore activities in school wide, cross grade groupings to discover and build community.

All-School Assemblies

Every Tuesday morning, the entire school community gathers for assembly in the auditorium. Here, we sing and dance together, hear from our students and faculty, and practice mindfulness.


Research shows, for many children physical communication is essential to their well being and developmentally necessary. During rumpus, students are able to safely “wrestle” with their peers, while an adult referees.

the power to make change

the power of small

How we live the power of small each day

  • Students are at the center of everything we do.
  • Our students are challenged to step-up and lead.
  • All staff and faculty know every child.
  • Small schools have the ability to have stronger, more connected communities.
  • Teachers and administration know your child and your family in a way that is not possible in a larger school.
  • Our K-3 classrooms have full time Lead Teachers and Teaching Assistants.
  • Our 4/5 classrooms have full-time Lead Teachers in each room and a shared Teaching Assistant between the two classrooms.
  • Two adults in each room provide our students with more individualized attention and small group instruction.
  • More attention can be given to social emotional learning with two adults in the classroom.
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