Sunbeam is a working farm that meets 100% outdoors, rain or shine.
We are located on a 2-acre agricultural space on Bodega Ave, just a few minutes west of downtown Petaluma. The days are gently structured by natural rhythms and the tasks of the land, such as foraging for wild greens, tending our vegetable garden, raking, digging, caring for the sheep, guinea pigs, and composting worms, or creating custom play spaces with straw bales.
We prioritize social connections, physical and emotional safety, self care and body awareness, and children's self-directed play and discoveries. Guided by dedicated and talented adults, whom we call Collaborators, the children happily investigate, move their bodies, create, tell stories, eat, and rest, all while experiencing wonder and developing deep relationships with the outdoor world, each other, and themselves.
How we Learn
The pedagogy at Sunbeam is an integration of best practices from the leading child-centered philosophies (Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Forest Schools). We are most inspired and influenced by the Reggio Emilia approach.
Shawna (the director) has had specific training in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and has years of experience building social constructivist, project-based learning communities, with a focus on children's co-created inquiries and solving real-life problems with real tools.
We start with the powerful foundation of play and connectedness and then build in the cycle of inquiry, storytelling, visual representation, and documentation, to guide a co-created learning process WITH (not for) children.
The Inquiry Arc
Do we follow a structure? Yes, our school days follow consistent and predictable routines and rhythms. Do we have learning goals for the children? Yes, we carefully observe and assess each child as well as the group to determine how best to support them in learning developmentally appropriate skills. Do children have a choice in how they will learn these skills? Yes; their interests and engagement, their concerns, stories and ideas, play a central role in our discussions and activities.
Each year, there is an overarching theme chosen that helps guide the group's learning experiences. There are three arc inquiry topics throughout the year. Within each arc, there are three distinct phases: an exploration, expression, and exposition phase.
In Exploration, children and teachers are going on adventures, asking many questions, and representing their theories on the new topic.
In Expression, the group goes deeper into a chosen channel of investigation. They may go back frequently to their chosen site of research with specific goals. They might start prototyping something they want to create. After revisiting, iterating, and reflecting, a culmination emerges.
In Exposition, the children present their project work to their community, typically inviting parents in to learn from them, as they are the experts in their own learning journeys.