Sunset Sudbury is one of many programs worldwide, modeled after Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA.(est. 1968).
Sunset Sudbury is a self-directed learning community in South Florida. We provide a rich learning environment in which students, ages four through eighteen, are free to follow their interests. Sunset Sudbury differs from most other schools in three ways:
- We offer an environment that supports self-directed learning. We operate in a truly democratic setting.
- We use a system of justice that is student-led and empowering for all.
- We trust in each child’s innate curiosity and ability to know what’s best for him or her, and encourage behavior that recognizes mutual respect for self and others.
Self Directed Learning:
At Sunset Sudbury, students are encouraged to use their childhood years to satisfy their natural thirst for knowledge, to explore the world, and to learn how to actively communicate with honesty and fearlessness. Students’ time and choice of activities are valued and are managed without intervention or coercion by others. Curriculum is not proscribed and all students are responsible for their own day, choosing the subject matter, the place, and the time for their pursuits. Students also determine whether to work on their own, with a small group or in a structured class setting.
When given this intellectual autonomy, students become inspired and passionate about learning. Because they have chosen their activities, they are genuinely interested and motivated to pursue an interest to its completion (as determined by them alone). Obstacles are overcome with great determination, with lessons in follow-through and accountability to self and others. Self-knowledge and self-evaluation (the only kind), become apparent as each child’s continued growth unfolds. We believe these are invaluable tools for living not only an examined life, but a fulfilling and successful one as well.
The aim of our program is to provide a setting in which students are independent, trusted and are treated as responsible people who have a full and equal voice in every aspect of their learning. All of the decisions affecting a student’s education and the community as a whole are made on a one person, one vote basis at the weekly Community Meeting. Together with staff, students make important decisions about finances, plans, hiring and firing of staff, along with setting standards of ethical behavior. They learn through trial and error, how to make a case for what they want, how to give and take, and what it feels like to be in the minority as well as the majority.
The Judicial Committee is a rotating group of peers, two elected clerks and a staff member who meet daily to settle disputes on a case-by-case basis. In this way, students are encouraged to seek resolve for situations which jeopardize their rights within the community and to do their part in upholding the community laws which are essential to maintaining an atmosphere of trust, respect and fairness. Through transparency of the community rules via the Sunset Sudbury Law Book and with direct participation in its creation, students become empowered in making sensible choices for themselves and their community. The law book is the container, which gives the community the structure necessary to hold a space for individual freedom, balanced with responsible actions toward the community and oneself.