Social-emotional-character development of children. Many Rivers provides children the values of kindness, fairness, perseverance, and fun, and to have them practice those values throughout their school day, whether at Project Time, in individual work, in group meetings, or at play.
Multi-age experiences for children. Many Rivers provides children with both formal and informal opportunities for mentoring each other. Older children are paired with younger children for special sessions, and, because of the multi-age classrooms, children with varying levels of experience and proficiency (sometimes regardless of actual age) have many opportunities to give each other a hand. This is something that is not only good for them emotionally and socially, but, research shows, also leads to academic success. In addition, research shows that mentoring– aka helping each other — helps not just the child getting help, but the child giving, as well.
Experiential, project-based learning, with an emphasis on the arts. Children respond to hands-on projects because they can use many senses and many skills. Because they’re so engaged, they are able to practice critical thinking, communication, collaboration, perseverance, and creativity. These projects sustain a love of learning, and children are motivated to explore and discover new things.
We believe art is important not only because of its power to stir hearts and minds, but also because of its proven role in developing critical thinking skills, in cutting through what otherwise might be barriers of culture, language and learning styles, and in reinforcing concepts. That is why we design long-term projects for our classrooms and have developed our Adventures in Art collaboration with the Maine College of Art.
Five classrooms, Grades 1-5, gives Many Rivers a “small school” atmosphere, and continuity and consistency for children. This is a model that may be poised to be replicated anywhere in the Portland Public Schools.