What is British Primary?

  • The British Primary educational philosophy is a unique instructional approach created 40 years ago under the direction and leadership of Founding Head Carolyn Hambidge.

    This philosophy encompasses the practices of many well-known educators and theorists, best described as constructivists, including Jean Piaget, John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky. 

    Constructivists believe people cannot be "given" information and then instantly understand and use it. Instead, individuals must "construct" their knowledge and understanding for themselves.

    Under this theory, Stanley BPS emphasizes hands-on problem solving that allows children to tap into their natural curiosities. As educators, we focus on making connections between facts and fostering new understanding in students. 

    >>Learn more from our Head of British Primary Professional Learning in the "Living British Primary" blog. 

Foundational Principles

  • Friedrich Froebel, Constructivist Educator Our Founder Carolyn Hambidge's views as an educator were dramatically influenced by the principles of Friedrich Froebel, a German educator known for his progressive views of early education. Carolyn was educated at The Froebel Insititute, now a college within the London University systems.

    Key elements of a Froebelian education in action at Stanley British Primary School:

    • There should be intense respect for the person being taught.
    • People should be active agents in their own learning.
    • There should be a continuing relationship between the learner and the teacher.
    • Learning should be a cumulative, integral process rather than one consisting of fragmented, discrete elements.
    • Education should be focused on personal growth, fulfillment and care for others.

    Learn more about Stanley's fundamentals through our Vision, Mission & Values.

  • "The Art of Being Human"  Our philosophy in a colorful nutshell: "The Art of Being Human," available at school, on Amazon.com or Tattered Cover in Denver. School-sales proceeds to Stanley teachers!

On Froebel

  • "Froebel had a very different way of looking at children and teaching, which was radical in his time. He valued children as children and felt they should develop all sides of themselves. He saw the classroom as a garden, which the teacher would create, providing materials that were aesthetically pleasing and yet challenging to children that would bring out of them what was natural to them. 


    To do this, you must realize that each child is unique, and learns in a different way. So you must understand where the child is developmentally and then provide him the opportunities to learn in the way he learns best."
    —Carolyn Hambidge, Founding Head Stanley BPS

Living British Primary Blog

  • Curiosity

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 1/14/2021


    As I walked past a K-1-2 classroom this fall, several children excitedly shared with me their experiment outside their classroom door in which they had placed an array of food to see what squirrels would eat. They also shared their “squirrel” notebooks in which they were gathering information about squirrels. In addition to finding out about what squirrels eat, the children wanted to know where squirrels live, how far they can jump, if they are attracted to shiny things, if they are rodents.. I could feel the children’s enthusiasm, energy, and interest in their studies. The interest had grown from their observations and wonder at the squirrels chattering and climbing trees outside their classroom. These K-1-2 students were curious, and their curiosity was motivating them to learn. As Susan Engel writes in her book The Hungry Mind (P.8) “When something in our environment tweaks our curiosity, we try to satisfy the feeling by seeking information.”


    In December the faculty and staff delved into discussions and research on the importance of curiosity in our classrooms and in our lives. Here’s what we uncovered and shared:


    Curiosity is:

    Curiosity is an overwhelming desire to understand.

    - Grace Reilly 

    Curiosity is a desire to know more; to take the shovel and dig in.

    - Mona Akbari

    Curiosity is finding out more about something that intrigues you.

    - Carolyn Hambidge


    Curiosity propels us to explore and it is the force behind cognitive development

    Curiosity ignites us to ask questions and wonder; it fuels our thinking. As Sumant Bhat says, “With curiosity, it’s like an itch that we need to scratch. When we are curious about something, we can’t focus on other things. There’s this draw to action, exploration, and investigation. We need to address it. We need to engage with it.” When we are curious, we are motivated, excited, and connected. As Grace Reilly, 8th grade science teacher, says, “When we are curious, we are fully invested with nonstop questions.” We are motivated to learn!


    Curiosity is the beginning of a process of discovery and learning. Wendy Ostroff in her book From Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms (p. 1-5) explains why, “Curiosity has been hailed as the major impetus behind cognitive development, education and scientific discovery. It is the drive that brings learners to knowledge.. When we are curious, our brain’s surge in dopamine causes us to take and remember the entire landscape of experience and information more deeply. This is because the dopamine makes the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with long-term memory function better.” And Susan Engel in her book The Curious Mind (p.178) writes, “When people want to learn more, they learn. Inciting children’s curiosity is the best way to ensure that they will absorb and retain information...when people’s interest in information is piqued, their memory for that information is enhanced. In other words, learning feels good when the material satisfies curiosity, and such learning tends to last.”


    How do we at Stanley create “curious” classrooms?

    We create a safe place to be curious and explore

    The space we create lets curiosity into our classrooms. Grace Reilly says, “You need a place where learners can feel safe and able to be wrong and vulnerable to show that they care about something and that they have a question and want to learn about it. It is a vulnerable place to announce that you care about something.” Kathy Mueller adds, “We create safe spaces for kids to be curious, to maybe mispeak or not fully understand something to ask those questions. We spend a lot of time talking about respect and having safe space for curiosity to really run its course.” We build a space in which wonder and curiosity enter our classrooms and learners feel safe pursuing it.


    We value curiosity

    We show we value something by spending time and focus on it. Susan Engel in her book The Hungry Mind (p.186-193) writes, “Curiosity takes time to unfold, and even longer to bear fruit. In order to help children build on their curiosity, teachers have to be willing to spend time doing so.” Kathy Mueller, says, “When you’re gifted time - protected time - curiosity can run free and do what it needs to do. We need to have protected time for curiosity to run its course.” In our schools mission statement, it states that we value discovery and that we encourage curiosity. We value curiosity across all curriculum areas! Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher, says, “I feel like Stanley classrooms are communities of curiosity!”


    We bring interesting and meaningful materials and curricula into our classrooms

    As Stanley teachers, we bring in things that are meaningful and interesting for learners to have curiosity about. As Susan Engel writes in The Hungry Mind (p.182-190), “Children need access to books with good language and complex character, fish tanks, terrariums, complex machines and gadgets, and conversations about the unseen and unseeable...Fill classrooms with the kinds of complexity that invite inquiry. Teachers should provide children with interesting materials, seductive details, and desirable difficulty. Instead of presenting children with material that has been made as straight forward and digested as possible, teachers should make sure their students encounter objects, texts, environments, and ideas that will draw them in and pique their curiosity...Encourage discussion... Some of the discussions can be planned (a daily debate about a newspaper article, regular roundtable discussions about the books the students are reading)...Have a sharp ear for the stray comment by a child that can be developed into something more.” Grace Reilly shares, “I think a lot about ill-structured problems, problems without one clear or right solution. In eighth grade we talk about genetics at the end of the year. We have a debate about genetically modifying humans with Crispr technology and whether that should be allowed or not. And it’s a debate that is happening in real time. It’s a technology that is just coming up. People are just learning how to use it. The students get so invested. because you can’t just google it. You can’t just find an answer to it. When they have the motivation to figure out an answer that is not readily accessible to them, I think that builds curiosity.” Valentina Reiling summarizes by saying, “You need community and relationships, but you also need problems and conflict; change; curiosity sometimes comes from conflict and disruption of things. You need change and diversity brought into the environment but you also need opportunity for repetition.”


    We weave students’ interests into our curriculum

    At Stanley, we create curricula and learning experiences that propel learners to investigate; we also, whenever possible, honor learners’ own interests and questions, their curiosities. Carolyn Hambidge says, “Children do need to find their interests. They’ve got to have room in the class, in the space to really explore and find their interests so they can be curious.” And as Kathy Mueller says, “You can create environments of curiosity but until there is this fire within a learner, that space is kind of empty. Learners need the passion, the interest, the motivation. Give learners choice. Here are all these possibilities, what are you fascinated by? What book, character, storyline draws you in? We give choice within structure. Choice within the space we create.” At Stanley we recognize the importance of diving into learning because there is a burning fire within us to find out, and to know and to understand more.


    We are open to the unexpected

    Flexibility and openness are essential in the fostering of curiosity - a willingness to let curiosity lead. We might have a plan but then curiosity leads us in a different direction. Sumant Bhat says, “There’s an open-mindedness component to creating a “curious classroom,” an understanding that there might be multiple explanations to things.” Susan Engel in The Hungry Mind (p.178) writes, “Another key ingredient to the curious classroom is openness to serendipity, the unexpected insight or accidental data. Rather than disciplining children to learn, why not create the conditions in which children actually are hungry for knowledge?” In order for curiosity to permeate our classrooms, we embrace the unexpected places exploration and learning might lead.


    We engage with learners and their curiosity

    As the adults in our children’s lives, we can either nurture or stunt curiosity. Sumant says, “We can’t be evaluative or dismissive of things that children bring to us because we could send the message that curiosity isn’t important.” Valentina adds, “One of the conditions needed to foster curiosity is a way for the curiosity to be held or mirrored somehow - usually by a teacher or mentor or peer. Someone to validate the curiosity, to join in with the curiosity or even challenge and extend the curiosity...Teachers must be curious about their students’ thinking to encourage curiosity! “Why do you think that?” “How did you know/do that?” Curiosity is ignited in the classroom when students get the message from their teachers that they value their thinking, the process of learning.


    We model curiosity

    Curiosity is contagious. Angie Martyn, K-8 dance teacher, shares, “To inspire learners to be curious, we model curiosity, wonder about things, ask questions. This morning at Morning Meeting the teacher asked, “What did you have for breakfast?” Then she followed up with more questions, digging for details. “What kind of cereal? What was on your toast? The teacher was authentically curious.” As the adults in our children’s lives we share our own curiosity and model being curious.


    We facilitate access to resources that respond to curiosity

    In a “curious” classroom, we not only plan and model curiosity, and are open and flexible, we support learners in answering their questions. Valentina Reiling says, “We have resources available (people, books, photographs, diagrams, conversations, etc) to refer to that become trusted sources and also inspiration for even deeper curiosity. Susan Engel in the The Hungry Mind (p. 191) writes, “A teacher who invites students to ask questions without helping them seek accurate answers or acquiring a robust body of knowledge would leave the educational task half done….So to cultivate students’ curiosity, teachers need to give them both time to seek answers and guidance about various routes to getting answers, such as looking things up in reliable sources or testing hypotheses.” When we are curious, we want to find out answers; we want to know more; we learn naturally.


    In conclusion

    For several weeks as I walked by the outside of the K-1-2 squirrel classroom, I observed the children observing the squirrels. Two weeks into the study, I saw the children weaving sticks together and placing leaves on top of the structure and placing it in the cross section of the branches of a tree. The children had researched how squirrels build their homes and they were attempting to help build them for them! I am sure these children will never forget how squirrels build their homes and what squirrels eat and how they climb. Their wonder and curiosity for squirrels had propelled them into learning and a deep understanding of the animals outside their classroom door.

    As Carolyn Hambidge shares, “ With curiosity there is a deep, wonderful interest with questions and connections and caring. A desire to find out more and care about it.” At Stanley we value learning, understanding and caring. I hope that you can find time to honor and interact with your children’s curiosity and even discover and explore your own.

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  • Wonder – Making Time Stand Still

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 12/10/2020

    When I was on lunch recess duty in November, a child yelled “Hawks! Hawks! Hawks!” and pointed to the sky. Three huge birds glided across the Colorado blueness. The sun illuminated the slight red on their shoulders and wings. I realized that all of the cohorts of children on the playground were pointing and staring and stopping to watch the birds. The three birds soared and turned, soared again, turned and soared again. We were all entranced in a moment of wonder. Time stood still as we reveled in awe at the beauty.


    3 hawks This past month the Stanley faculty and staff have been exploring the concept of wonder and the role it plays in our lives and in our classrooms. The word ‘wonder’ comes from the Indo-European root meaning simply to smile or to laugh. Anything wonderful is something to smile in the presence of. The faculty and staff articulated many wonder-ful words to describe wonder: 


    Wonder is:

    inhaling of breath, astonishment

    a marvel, a gem

    inspiring, mesmerizing, magical

    revelry in the moment

    A thrill of the heart

    joyful, warm, glow

    soul touching, meaningful

    authentic, fulfilling

    time slowing


    mysterious, unknown



    As a group of faculty and staff we talked about the impact that wonder has on us. We shared that with wonder, we experience a sense of time slowing and even a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. We talked about how wonder is physical and visceral and how we want to hold on to wonder. Objects and scenes that inspire wonder, prompt a desire to keep them. Collect them. Paint them. Write about them. We want to preserve the moment of wonder, the memory. Wonder also inspires connection to others and makes us want to share.


    Pause for a moment. When have you and do you experience wonder?


    Here are some objects, scenes, and interactions that have inspired wonder for the Stanley faculty and staff:

    The depth and breadth of the ocean

    The vastness of the canyons

    The red of the maple leaf

    The spiral of the snail shell

    The colors and structures within a cell

    Pine needles coated in ice sparkling in the winter sun

    Patterns and pendulums

    Words woven

    Hearing music, seeing dance


    Stories of different times and places





    Sydney Oswald, Middle School Fellow, shared, “I see wonder in moving from small to large and seeing it all come together; pieces coming together to create a whole. A sum greater than the parts like puzzles or groups of people.” Aya Schickel, K-5 Spanish teacher, shared about the wonder she feels for the joy at Stanley, “For years walking into Stanley I have experienced wonder at the joy that I can physically feel... I am in wonder and awe at the thoughtfulness and kindness of the teachers at Stanley. My sense of wonder at the people at Stanley has allowed me to grow into a kinder, more thoughtful person. My sense of wonder at the people at Stanley has transformed me over the years.” 


    As a faculty and staff we talked about how people can inspire wonder in us. Brenda Duncan, former K-1-2 teacher and teacher advisor, shared, “When I connect with the natural world, I think of my father who always carried a sense of wonder in him. He loved to garden and he would call me to look at the brussels sprouts and how they grow, alternating up the stalk.” We talked about how children often inspire wonder in us. Brittany McKenna, 6-8 teacher, shared, “I love being with my kids to experience wonder with them. I love being able to see through my children’s eyes. It helps remind me there is so much to wonder about in small things. So much to wonder about in the most ordinary things.” And Julie Miles, K-1-2 teacher, shared, “When I remember to slow down and look at everything through the eyes of a child almost everything can be viewed with wonder - a marble, a block. It reminds me to appreciate the feeling of wonder. It’s why I like teaching. I want children to remember me as someone who stops and looks with wonder. Kids can find wonder in almost anything. I love seeing what children put together with a variety of materials – it’s an everyday wonder to me.”


    As faculty and staff, we are grateful for the wonder that our students share and bring to us. As faculty and staff, we try to honor the importance of wonder and keep the focus on the marvels of the world at the forefront of what we do. Rachel Carson in her book the Sense of Wonder says, “Once our emotions have been aroused - a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love, then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning.” 


    At Stanley we try to enrapture students with birds on the playground, with thought-provoking texts, with awesome experiments, with interesting materials, and with breath-taking kindness! At Stanley, we plan our lessons and units to inspire, to engage, to draw students in, to spark interest; so that they want to be involved with the subject matter and to continue to pursue learning. As Steven Wolk in “School as Inquiry,” Phi Delta Kappan (October 2008) writes, “Most children are not going to be an Einstein or a Thoreau, but they can live like them, in awe of our existence, filled with questions, and excited to observe and understand the world. Thoreau and Einstein followed two very different paths, but their inquiry about the world required common habits of mind. To them, the world was something to study, to explore, to wonder about. They had passion; their inquiry was not pulled by a test, it was pushed from within. That passion and wonder is what sent Shakespeare to the stage, Darwin to the Galapagos, and Jane Goodall to the chimpanzees. And it should be what drives our schools.”


    At Stanley, we plan for open-ended projects and provide choice; so that learners can access and enter the learning in different ways, ways that appeal to them and ignite their fascination and curiosity. We have students share their interests, their passions, and weave what is meaningful to them into our learning. Find what brings them wonder! As Stanley teachers, we share our wonder. Our excitement and interests can be contagious! We model what it looks like to be interested and mesmerized.


    At Stanley, we take children into nature and bring the natural world into the classroom. Kathy Mueller, 6-7-8 teacher, reflects, “ When I think of the trips in middle school, the purpose of them is being together, seeing something beautiful, slowing down, and being in that space. Every trip there are always hundreds of moments of wonder! Watching kids who have never walked in Moab and seeing the Arches for the first time and watching their faces when they see it. Sometimes, with the wonder there is a little fear – overwhelmed sometimes. The outdoor experiences are such a gift.” We slow down; so that we can see and experience moments of wonder.


    As Stanley teachers, we reflect on and put words to our thinking and feeling. As Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher says, “It feels important for us to give voice for our students (and ourselves) to how the layers of discovery (wonder, curiosity, etc.) are felt in our bodies and through our senses, the physical experience.” As Stanley teachers, we create a safe space. Katie Russell, former K-1-2 teacher and teacher advisor shares, “A sense of safety and trust is necessary to feel and embrace wonder and share wonder. A willingness to be vulnerable, feel moved by something outside oneself and connect to the feeling of awe and wonder. A sense that I will be accepted if I share my wonder.” Grace Reilly, 6-7-8 teacher, adds, “If you are afraid of being wrong, it is a hindrance to your ability to wonder authentically...The community building piece is an important part of creating a space where you can wonder and ask questions and be struck by things.” 


    The day before Thanksgiving break I encountered a teacher and a group of five students returning from the playground. “Joanna, there’s an owl in the tree by the gym! Come and see!” The children reversed direction and bounded towards the gym. They pointed up to a very tall tree and there on a branch was the biggest owl that I had ever seen! While we were looking up, the owl launched his huge body into the air and glided over the main building without moving his wings. We all stood in wonder until the owl disappeared...and then there was a cascading of questions. How could he fly without moving his wings? How big do owls get? Is it hard to fly when you are that big? Are owls nocturnal? Why was the owl out in the middle of the day? Why are there owls and hawks on our playground? Is it because there are so many bunny rabbits? Wonder stretched out. Then... a tumbling of questions and observations, a leaning in to understand. Wonder often leads to curiosity. As a faculty and staff we are exploring and sharing about curiosity during the month of December. 


    Wonder can be the take-your-breath-away moments. It can also appear in the everyday if you look for it, and slow down enough to appreciate and see it. We can actively find more wonder in our lives. David McCord, an American Poet, writes, “One of my teachers told me, ‘Never let a day go by without looking on three beautiful things.’ I try to live up to that and find it isn’t difficult. The sky in all weathers is, for me, the first of these three things.” 


    May you and your children experience many moments of wonder during this winter time!

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  • The Stories of Our Lives

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 11/11/2020

    You see a person. They are a person in the distance. When we hear someone’s story, it builds life into that person. For just that moment in time, we were able to look through the window and see a part of them. —Donna Meallet, 6-7-8 advisor & physical education teacher

    This year the faculty and staff have the option of delving into two British Primary concepts: Discovery and Identity. For our focus on identity, we started by sharing stories of our lives. As our School Librarian Allan Cutler pointed out, "We are our stories." Together, we shared stories of our names, of special objects and of important photos. We heard about spiders, angels and Vikings! (You can hear a name story from our own Head of School Sumant Bhat as told in an article that appeared in one of my favorite educational journals Teaching Tolerance.)

    Stories After sharing these stories, the faculty and staff delved into why and how we tell our stories. Their thoughts and words were so inspiring that I wanted to share several of them with you. We found ourselves exchanging ideas and surfacing a number of important themes:


    • Connection: By sharing our stories and hearing others’, we develop a sense of connection. "When you share a story about yourself, you are vulnerable. and through vulnerability, you connect with others." —Brenda Duncan, former K-1-2 teacher & teacher advisor
    • Compassion: As the receiver of the story, we have a responsibility to listen so that the storyteller will want to share again. "It is a privilege to hear others’ stories and through telling our stories we become “a community of humans.” —Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher
    • Understanding: We learn from hearing others’ stories. "We don’t live in a vacuum. My experiences are my own experiences, but we understand our own experiences better in relationship to other people’s experiences. Hearing others’ stories, helps me see connections and differences between my life and others’ lives and helps me to process my own stories — which I can’t do if I am processing only my own life experiences." —Grace Reilly, 6-7-8 advisor & science teacher"
    • Self-discovery: We learn about ourselves from sharing our own stories. "Through sharing our stories and connecting them together, we make sense of our lives and understand ourselves better." —Carolyn Hambidge, founding head of Stanley (or as one child said, “She found Stanley.”)
    • Creativity: We can construct our own stories. "We tell ourselves stories to make sense of our worlds, to deal with fear, to protect ourselves. I believe we are more than our stories. I want to give others the space and freedom to discover their authentic identities, not feel locked into stories about themselves. I’m thinking that stories can help make sense of experiences, and we can all grow through and beyond them." —Katie Russell, former K-1-2 teacher & teacher advisor
    • Generosity: At Stanley we tell stories often and in different ways. "Morning Share builds a community. The children tell a small story of what is happening in their lives — such a gift for the storyteller and class! This “share” experience is creating skills, helping them learn to tell a concise story, to look at the audience, to stand in front of the audience. Stanley children are remarkable at being brave and speaking in front of people. It all starts in kindergarten!" —Aya Schickel, K-5 Spanish teacher
    • Courage: It takes bravery to share. "Sharing our stories brings courage and bravery to us. There is a saying in Iran, “One flower can bring spring.” By seeing that flower you are also reminded that you can bloom and grow. Then another one sees it and blooms and grows. Just one starts this whole process of growth for others. When we share and listen to others, we realize that if they can do it, then I can also do it. Yes, one flower can lead the whole spring." —Mona Akbari, front desk & administrative coordinator


    Tell your own stories. This upcoming winter — in person, on Zoom, on the phone — share your stories! One of the stories I shared at the faculty and staff gathering was about how the name “Hambidge” is derived from Old English in the seventh century from Somerset in England. “Ham” means Homestead and “bidge” is an abbreviation for bridge. “The Homestead by the bridge.” I think this is a nice metaphor for our school, as our front gathering place at school is called the Hambidge Commons (after Stanley’s founding head of school).


    I hope our school is a “home” for all of us, where we feel safe to share and learn about ourselves and others. And we do have a bridge — by the dragon on the playground! The bridge has two hand-carved pillars. On top of one pillar is a flying horse and on top of the other is an eagle. Last week when I was on recess duty, a second grader was climbing up one of the carved wooden pillars of the bridge. When I pointed out the large cracks appearing on the pillars, the second grader quickly climbed down to stand on the handrails of the bridge. He rubbed his hands gently over the wings of the flying horse and said, “There must be a story…”.


    With love,

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  • Discovery in British Primary Learning

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 10/15/2020

    Last week as I walked across campus, a teacher arranged buckets of bubble solution and colorful pipe cleaners on the deck outside the classroom. Soon seven children immersed their hands and different shaped pipe cleaner creations into the different buckets. When I passed by again forty minutes later, I could hear sounds of excitement – WOW! Look at this!” I paused for a few minutes and watched the children.


    Bubbles One child had bent pipe cleaners into a square and was trying to make a rectangular bubble. Two boys were working on bouncing bubbles and noticing how the sunlight was reflecting on the surface. They then went on to see if they could put bubbles inside of bubbles or even objects inside of bubbles. Three children were working together to create the biggest bubble possible – twisting multiple pipe cleaners together into a huge circle, then each holding a part of the circle as they dipped it into the bubble solution. Then, ever so carefully, they orchestrated standing up in unison and running together to release the ginormous bubble. As these experiments ensued, the children occasionally smiled in my direction, but were so engaged in their discoveries that they hardly noticed me perched on the edge of their classroom deck.


    This moment of exploration reminded me of another moment I had shared this past week with faculty and staff. This year the faculty and staff have the option of deep diving into two key British Primary concepts – Discovery and Identity. The group exploring Discovery met this past week and experienced being Discoverers themselves. They each received a bag of materials – pipe cleaners, cups, yarn and beads – and explored. The end creations were all different: dachshunds, aspen trees, octopus on sandcastles, an African-American girl with beads in her hair, a windchime, a welcome sign... Faculty and staff described moments of being lost in the act of discovery and creation, moments of losing track of time, moments of the outside world disappearing. These descriptions reminded me of the children exploring bubbles with their whole beings, absorbed in their discoveries.


    While the teachers and children were exploring different materials, there were many similarities. 

    • They were absorbed in what they were doing.
    • They appreciated the time to explore and create. The children were engaged with the bubble experimentation for well over an hour! The teachers reflected on how it was nice to have the bag of materials at home and to not feel rushed as they discovered and created. 
    • They were each pursuing different interests.
    • They were demonstrating flexibility and curiosity, a willingness to experiment with the materials and ask questions “What if? What else?” 


    Eleanor Duckworth, in her article “The Having of Wonderful Ideas,” shares how in her research: “The having of wonderful ideas is the essence of intellectual development... Wonderful ideas do not spring out of nothing. They build on a foundation of other ideas... Schools and teachers can provide materials and questions in ways that suggest things to be done with them; and children, in the doing, cannot help being inventive... Familiarize children with a few phenomena in such a way as to catch their interest, to let them raise and answer their own questions, to have them realize that their ideas are significant – so that they have the interest, the ability, and the self-confidence to go on by themselves.”


    If we want our children to discover and create, we need to honor and spark their curiosity and give them the time to engage. Time to wonder. Time to observe. Time to ask questions. Time to investigate. Time to share. Time to create. I am grateful that in the classrooms and in the outside spaces at Stanley, I so often observe children, and teachers, absorbed in the process of discovery and creation.


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  • Where does Stanley’s joy come from?

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 9/17/2020

    In my thirty years of working at Stanley, I have never experienced the joy that emanated from our campus at the beginning of this school year! Last week while a cohort of sixteen sixth graders ate a socially distanced lunch together in the middle of the Witter field, a hum of jovial banter and laughter mixed with the now-fresh Colorado air. After fifteen minutes of eating and talking, spontaneously eight of the sixth graders stood up and broke out into a dance. Most of the cohort then began singing “Sweet Caroline,” which was popular when I was in Middle School! As the cohort transitioned into playing football, they continued to sing “Sweet Caroline” throughout the duration of recess.


    Joy Our school’s vision statement reads, “We envision a community of joyful, lifelong learners prepared to make a positive difference in the world.” Why is the word joy in the first sentence describing what is important at our school? K-1-2 teacher Julie Miles shared with me that joy is why she chose Stanley for her children and joy is why she chooses to work at the school. Throughout the years, as visitors move through our classrooms and hallways, they often remark that there is a positive energy, that the children seem happy, and that people are smiling. I do know that it is not always this way! I have experienced tears on the playground! But what is joy? Where does joy come from? Can we do anything to spread joy?


    At our August retreat before school started, the faculty and staff focused on joy and shared what brings each of us joy. I shared that loving my children, walking through meadows with wildflowers, singing and creating classrooms where children love learning are some of the things that bring me joy. Pause for a minute… What brings you joy?


    Stanley faculty and staff discovered that although what brings each of us joy is different, there are common themes. We decided that we experience joy when we connect to what is meaningful, when we engage with our passions and interests, when we love/care for others, when we immerse ourselves in nature, meaningful places and experiences. We also realized that we can have agency, that we can facilitate and support ourselves and others to experience joy. Here are some of our ideas for creating joy at our school and in our lives:

    • Bring our authentic selves. Be brave. Share our passions. Be open-minded.
    • Build intentional relationships. Listen. Connect. Joy in being heard! And loved! Take the moments with each person. Ask people, “What brings you joy?” We are all unique.
    • Emphasize community. Take time for connections. Collaborate and play games.
    • Provide opportunities for pursuing interests and passions. Differentiate. Joy looks different for different people. Give Choice. Play music. Dance and move. Be outside!
    • Explore and Discover. Wonder. Play. Honor Curiosity. Provide new experiences. What will they discover? Discovery on their own time!
    • Take time. Slow down. Get lost in the moment. Flow of time disappears!
    • Provide space and time for creativity. Engage. Realize visions. Gain confidence. Feel successful.
    • Find joy in the little moments. Be Mindful. Be positive. Joy of here and now!


    While I watched the sixth graders at lunch and recess, I knew they were experiencing joy. They were expressing themselves through dancing and singing; they were connecting to each other and feeling part of a community; they were getting lost in the moment; they were reveling in being outside in the Colorado sunshine after two days of rain and snow. At Stanley we believe in the importance of recess and all that goes into making a joyful community in which to learn and grow. Maya Angelou writes, “We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.” May you experience joy, love and connection this fall, and all year.


    With love,

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Froebels's Principles in the Stanley Classroom

  • Froebel Trust

    Our method and practice of teaching rely heavily on many of Friedrich Froebel's principles. They include:  

    • Skilled and informed observation of children, to support effective development, learning and teaching 
    • Awareness that education relates to all capabilities of each child: imaginative, creative, symbolic, linguistic, mathematical, musical, aesthetic, scientific, physical, social, moral, cultural and spiritual 
    • Parents/carers and educators working in harmony and partnership
    • First hand experience, play, talk and reflection 
    • Activities and experiences that have sense, purpose and meaning to the child, and involve joy, wonder, concentration, unity and satisfaction 
    • A holistic approach to learning which recognizes children as active, feeling and thinking human beings, seeing patterns and making connections 
    • Encouragement rather than punishment 
    • Individual and collaborative activity and play 
    • An approach to learning which develops children's autonomy and self confidence

    Source: The Froebel Trust