Minnesota has a long history of innovation in education, rooted in our citizens’ commitment to expanding opportunity to all and empowering teachers and families to create new educational options that meet the needs of the children they love. Thirty five years ago, the Minnesota Miracle expanded funding to communities in need, and importantly, it did so through a state-level formula that protected local control of educational decisions. Twenty five years ago, Minnesota passed the first charter law in the nation, which gave school-level educators a pathway to create innovative schools within the public system. Minnesota offers post-secondary enrollment options, a network of support for home schools, interdistrict choice and countless other initiatives and programs designed to make it possible for every child to access a strong, personalized, relevant education.
I am excited to share the next step in this legacy of local empowerment and expanding opportunity to all Minnesotans: Wildflower Schools. A network of tiny, one-room Montessori schools that spring up from the energy of teachers and parents, each is designed to celebrate the beautiful uniqueness of each child and to support their development into self-actualized young adults, with a world of choices at their feet. Drawing on 100 years of scientifically designed and research-backed Montessori philosophy as well as leading-edge thinking regarding network design and data-driven instruction, Wildflower Schools offer a truly unique, new option for Minnesota families who aren’t satisfied with the one-size-fits-all approach that dominates most education options in our state. Wildflower’s innovative model builds on what research tells us learning should be by reimagining what school can look like in the modern world.
Creating a promising new school network, however, is only a start; a core part of Wildflower’s purpose is making sure that our schools are accessible to all families. And so, throughout the past year, The Wildflower Foundation (also based in Minnesota!) has been incubating plans for Wildflower to grow as a public charter school, the first in the Wildflower network. Wildflower as a charter is a unique concept: the school itself is not a building – or even, really, a specific place – but rather, a support structure that unites an expanding number of shopfront schools that will be designed and led by Teacher Leaders in partnership with families in their chosen neighborhood.
Each school site will serve a multiage group of 25-30 children within a three-year age range, starting with early childhood, growing all the way up through middle school. The small size of Wildflower school sites makes it possible for Teacher Leaders to build deep, authentic relationships with children and families – and our focus on school site autonomy makes it possible for Teacher Leaders to make everyday adjustments – to school operations, in order to meet families’ needs – and to educational opportunities, to align with children’s interests.
We believe that Wildflower Schools have a central role to play in our local public education ecosystem, as parents and teachers search for viable solutions to the challenge of educating citizens who are critical and creative thinkers with the academic and social/emotional skills to thrive in a rapidly changing, uncertain world. Blurring the boundaries between home and school and community, between student and citizen, between parent and activist, between teacher and social entrepreneur – the principles and values that define Wildflower’s approach support us all, children and adults alike, as we move forward on our journey toward becoming the best version of ourselves.
Seeds for new Wildflower schools will begin to sprout throughout the Twin Cities area throughout the coming year. Our first schools, serving young children age 0-3, will open in winter 2018. Recently approved by both an authorizer and the Minnesota Department of Education, our charter school is actively building the infrastructure this year to support our first charter school sites, serving children 3 years old through kindergarten, which are set to open in fall 2018.
Whether you are a Teacher Leader interested in opening your own school site, a parent who would like to partner with us to bring a Wildflower school to your neighborhood, or you’re just intrigued – contact me and we’ll keep you in the loop as our Minnesota network continues to grow.