Crane School Blog: Focus on Learning

Featuring articles written by Crane Staffulty

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Central Metaphors through Mission, Design, and Philosophy
Lora McManus

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Rio del Sol (RDS), a K-8 public school in Oxnard. This school, which opened its doors just two years ago, is unique in that their entire curriculum is student-driven and the pedagogy is intentionally reflective of indigenous Chumash methodologies. As an observer, one of the highlights of this school for me is their use of central metaphors throughout their mission, design, and philosophy...

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Rio del Sol (RDS), a K-8 public school in Oxnard. This school, which opened its doors just two years ago, is unique in that their entire curriculum is student-driven and the pedagogy is intentionally reflective of indigenous Chumash methodologies. As an observer, one of the highlights of this school for me is their use of central metaphors throughout their mission, design, and philosophy. 

Architecturally, many facets of the beautiful indoor-outdoor learning spaces at RDS reminded me of our own Crane Country Day School. RDS was constructed around the central metaphor of a meandering river which runs through the physical plant, unifying the different buildings. This river also is said to mirror the learning process of students as ebbing and flowing, evolving and changing over time. 

RDS’s philosophy is centered around three symbols from the Museo Nacional de Antropología and brought to the school by the founding principal. The first symbol, có (a TV-shaped glyph), represents “here” in pre-Columbian Nahuatl. It signifies a geographic “here” that denotes beginning— present here, past here, and future here. The second symbol is a seed, representing unending life—germination, blossoming, emerging, and regenerating. The third is a conch, or snail shell, that represents the unfolding and spiraling Aztec cosmology, or ever outwardly and inwardly radiating journey. RDS uses these symbols as aspirational and actionable, believing that during their time at the school, all children will be able to articulate which seeds of learning they created, sewn, and harvested; articulate their spiraling journey of learning; and, through critically reflecting (có) on the past, present, and future, carefully attend to their seeds and shape the journey they are taking.

I am constantly simultaneously occupying the space of a learner and a teacher in many contexts—as a Crane School teaching fellow, an M.A. student at Cal State Channel Islands, and a diversity practitioner. At RDS, teachers are referred to as learning guides and classrooms are called learning labs, reiterating the critical role of reciprocity in the educational process. This attention to diction serves as a reminder of the power of words to construct and transform experiences. Every student brings with them a wealth of knowledge and a myriad of contexts. The best thing about teaching is learning from, and with, my students; they inspire me to be a more intentional educator by recognizing and valuing the diversity of wisdoms. 

Lora McManus
Teaching Fellow

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