Broadly speaking, The Sage School is built on a philosophy that students are naturally inquisitive, curious, caring, thoughtful, and engaged people, and that our job is to maintain, uncover, remember, and push this by creating educational experiences that simultaneously address their current developmental levels and attend to the culture and environment of the time and foreseeable future, while still being rooted in personal and real world examples.
A colleague once said, “Your schedule is your mission.” It is the goal of The Sage School to embody its mission, not just in writing, but also in the form and function of all that we do. Community Action is incorporated into our weekly schedule, field studies punctuate the year, the focus of our core projects is human ecology and ecological and humanitarian issues, and we do our best to actively ask what is the best way for teenagers to learn.
The Sage School is intentionally designed by the faculty to ‘close the gap’ between students and their learning experiences. To borrow from John Dewey, it is designed to ‘unite child and curriculum.’ Students at Sage are engaged in important and meaningful work, work that matters not only for individual development, but for community and planet. In order for this system to work, all of our teachers at The Sage School must be Adolescent Anthropologists.
The American Anthropological Association introduces anthropology as follows:
We at The Sage School spend our days immersed in the culture of adolescents. We discuss, at length, the differences we observe between 6th graders and 9th graders. As we enact new programs or simple changes to the schedule, we step back and become observers of the classroom culture. We listen to the students, but we also listen ‘beyond’ their words. We draw from the social and biological sciences to inform and enrich our understandings. One of our central concerns at The Sage School is to construct a school that is responsive to the needs of our students. The intention of this design is to reinvent education for adolescents in the modern world- both for the students at the school and to serve as a model of how learning during adolescence can be focused on local and global human challenges. As David Orr pointed out in his book Earth in Mind, “It is not education, but education of a certain kind, that will save us…The goal of education is not mastery of subject matter but mastery of one’s own person.”
In that spirit, we see our task as creating and sustaining a thriving environment for adolescents to build their identity, connect to their community, and understand their sense of place. To the extent that we can understand and articulate the adolescent experience, we will succeed in our roles as adolescent anthropologists and teachers: we will assist students in their own constructions of self while also constructing a model of education designed to address ecological and humanitarian problems.