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A case study of Price Farm School, an independent, integrated day school: Straw into gold

Jane Inga Miller, University of Massachusetts Amherst


American state boards of education are calling for public schools to follow state educational “standards,” and for students to be tested against these standards periodically. We hear a cry from our political leaders to rewrite school mission statements to include discrete academic skills rather than goals supporting our students in becoming lifelong learners with skills in cooperation and problem solving. It is an important time to provide compelling descriptions of alternative educational models. This study provides one such description. Price Farm School was housed in an eighteenth century farmhouse in rural New Hampshire. With a commitment to “starting from scratch,” emphasizing the homemade, handmade or homegrown, the school's teachers provided an experiential education for up to twenty first through sixth grade students each year. To guide my research I attended to the following set of questions: What was Price Farm School's ethos, culture, climate? What were its guiding beliefs (philosophical foundations)? How did it emerge or evolve? What was its educative value? To address these questions, I analyzed data from a variety of sources including interviews with former students, teachers, interns and parents, student progress reports, students' journals, students' schoolwork, newsletters written by teachers to the school community, teachers' memos, and photographs taken of the children at school. I studied the data systematically to discover emergent themes and analyzed the pedagogical priorities and values implied by the themes. A review of the literature outlining the history of progressive education, constructivist learning theory, and brain-based educational learning principles served as the backdrop for my discussion of the philosophical underpinnings of this model. The themes most strongly represented in the data included a commitment to curriculum which was dependent upon the resources offered naturally by the seasons, and curriculum initiated in response to the interests, needs and development of the students. Information about teachers acting as coaches or facilitators in informal student-teacher relationships which were based on a balance between intimacy and trust, permeated the data. In an atmosphere of relaxed alertness, students at Price Farm School acquired the skills to become both academic and civic leaders in their subsequent schools.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Miller, Jane Inga, "A case study of Price Farm School, an independent, integrated day school: Straw into gold" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3039378.