Elon Musk opened his school, Ad Astra, in the same year as The Open School. We are contemporaries in many ways. Both schools are small, private, and experimental. Both schools reject grade levels and affirm student centered-life-learning. Both schools subscribe to the belief that new ideas come from learning without curricular constraints.
But there are two big differences. One is that The Open School is not funded by a billionaire (wouldn’t that make life easy?). The other is that The Open School accepts students whose parents aren’t SpaceX employees. In fact, we accept any student who is passionate about embracing freedom and responsibility.
It will take many years to get to our ultimate goal: a custom designed campus in central county that will be capable of serving up to two hundred and fifty students. We imagine creating a natural playscape, where students can learn through nature immersion. We envision providing students with state-of-the-art technology and an abundance of high-grade materials to work with. We dream about someday taking worldschooling trips to other continents, maybe even outer space. And we are growing towards that end every day.
How do we get there? Hand-in-hand with our community of course! We grow as hearts begin to open, as parents begin to desire an alternative to the traditional educational model, and as students learn to become real thinkers, real doers, real problem-solvers. We began like a seed in the Earth, and now you are witnessing the first sprouts emerging of what will one day be a massive tree.
We might not look that impressive now, but you know how the story goes. David and Goliath, the little engine that could, Frodo anyone? We hope you look deeply into what The Open School is really about. We provide a revolutionary alternative in education, an opportunity for the innate goodness of children to be preserved and the values of independence, responsibility, and compassion to become component to our student’s lives.
In the short term, we are actively seeking to increase enrollment and find a temporary campus location in or around Irvine or Tustin. We plan to grow through many stages as we increase the enrollment gradually, in order to cultivate the community and democratic process in manageable increments. In our second year we plan on accepting up to twenty five new students. Will your child be one of them?
Where will we be in 5, 10, 20 years? You can be a part of the answer to this question. Be the change you wish to see in the world. See what an Open future holds.
Here are some images that have inspired our campus visions for the future:
Given our emphasis on the environmental element of learning, the physical design of The Open School is essential. The space itself will spring from our philosophy and be inspirational to those who occupy it. Our vision is to create a space that is equal to the heightened excitement brought about by the bold purpose of the school. It will be comfortable and cutting edge, innovative, and it will connect to the sensibility and sustainability of nature. Our campus will be technologically advanced and technologically flexible. The space will inspire creativity, conversation, and exploration.
The specific design elements that will be incorporated into the space will blend the natural with the architectural. The space will be open, and will be a mixture of indoor and outdoor components. Wood and stone will serve to soften the modern lines and metal elements of the design. Indoor spaces will have lots of glass and the ability to open up entire walls to open them to the outdoor spaces. We will incorporate more intimate spaces for small groups or individual pursuits, as well as larger, more communal spaces for community events and gatherings.
Another essential element of our vision is the flexibility and adaptability of space. Since we cannot prescribe how each space will be used from day to day, all spaces will have features that make them multi-functional. Moveable walls and furniture with multiple uses, as well as large pocket doors that turn a solid wall into open air will be some of the elements. We also envision students and staff adapting the space with art and agriculture, and so most walls will be exhibit spaces or ever-changing art walls, and gardening spaces may be found outdoors, indoors, and on the roof. The space will evolve to be unique to the community it serves, and the design elements will allow for that evolution without being able to predict what it will be.
We also strive for an element of fun and whimsy in the design. Our school, after all, is for kids, and their sense of humor and excitement should be integrated into the very fabric of the school environment.
The above description is what we call our “big vision” campus. We are going for a campus like this in the next 5-10 years. But, to get there, we will start with a smaller campus in Central Orange County. That campus will have the same inspirational environment, scaled down for a smaller community and budget. We are inspired by maker spaces, children’s museums, tech startups, and the anti-mall movement.
**Note: the images above are inspirational photos and not photos of The Open School’s facilities, which have not yet been built. Images courtesy of: The Shed in Healdsburg, CA, The Camp in Costa Mesa, CA, The Branson School in Ross, CA, a childcare center in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, a Maker Space in New York, and SOCO in Costa Mesa.