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Prairie Creek Community School

Updated Feb 14, 2019
27695 Denmark Avenue - Northfield MN - 55057
Type of autonomy arrangement: leadership goodwill
Basic Profile

Opened In

1983

Grades

K-5

Environment

Rural

Type

Chartered
Autonomies
Select leaders
Determine learning program
Select colleagues
Determine professional development
Transfer or terminate colleagues
Determine whether to take, when to take, how much to count district/EMO/authorizer assessments
Determine tenure policy
Make formal arrangements with district/EMO/authorizer to allow multiple measures in determining school success (not only a mean proficiency score)
Evaluate colleagues
Set schedule
Set staff pattern
Determine teacher workday
Determine school budget
Set school-level policy
Determine compensation
Teacher Authority Is...
Teacher autonomy rests on the goodwill of the Director.

About the Learning Program

We believe as John Dewey did that students construct their skilled understanding of the world from genuine experiences. They learn math as they run a bodega or quantify the day's recycling. They create their own courts and legislatures as they study government. They become scientists as they design bird-feeding stations and map the geography of the school's woods and meadows. According to the principles of progressive education, children at Prairie Creek learnhow to learn by doing. They pose questions, they wonder aloud, they bring their natural curiosities to the classroom for full consideration. Each school day provides them with real-world opportunities to explore, to inquire, to answer—all the while supported by teachers who channel these ambitions into structured, creative projects and challenging lessons. In philosophy and in practice, Prairie Creek's progressive curriculum invites students to roll up their sleeves and jump right in to learning—learning that recognizes their lives, during these few years and beyond, as intriguing and collaborative adventures.

From the February 2019 School Spotlight:

About Prairie Creek Community School: Prairie Creek is a public, elementary charter school located in the beautiful, natural setting of Castle Rock, Minnesota. Here, 180 students and their teachers join together in passionate inquiry, project-based discovery, and hands-on learning. Children at Prairie Creek get to pose questions, wonder aloud, and bring their natural curiosities to the classroom for full consideration. Each school day provides them with real-world opportunities to explore, to inquire, to answer—all the while supported by teachers who channel these ambitions into structured, creative projects and challenging lessons. In philosophy and in practice, Prairie Creek’s progressive curriculum invites students to roll up their sleeves and jump right in to learning—learning that recognizes their lives, during these few years and beyond, as intriguing and collaborative adventures.

How does being teacher-powered impact student success?

  • Professional Development is designed and led by the teachers based on the needs they see in the classroom. Prairie Creek was awarded the Minnesota Association of Charter schools Innovation Award for its teacher-powered professional development in 2018.
  • School-wide decisions can be made quickly because of staff inspiration/enthusiasm or to resolve immediate issues.
  • Morale is high in the building because staff and students believe they have a voice.
  • As a small, teacher powered school, teachers can be responsive to student ideas and emergent curriculum in an agile manner without needing to negotiate layers of bureaucracy.

How are you structured? Prairie Creek is teacher-powered through the goodwill of the school board and the director. Two teachers serve on the school board and teachers are involved in decision-making and the hiring process of colleagues. The school is structured to emphasize teacher voice at each developmental level. There are three teams of three teachers (also aligned to Special Education staff) organized by K/1, 2/3 and 4/5 grades.

Final thoughts: Prairie Creek has created and hosted the Imagine Conference for educators interested in child-centered education. The conference has been hosted twice, in 2016 and 2018, forging strong partners with educators locally, regionally and nationally. Prairie Creek teachers organize the conference and lead workshops on their practice.

Prairie Creek has a strong teacher-led commitment to arts programming. An arts committee of teachers and parents plans a three year cycle of residency experiences that see students and teachers collaborating with professional artists. In recent years, arts residencies have focus on the circus, pottery, opera (student-created in collaboration with St. Olaf College), and puppetry.