SRV is intentionally small, and there is a strong sense of community for the students, parents and staff. This sense of community is carefully nurtured as the school promotes shared values and institutional practices, and engages adults and students in the joys and hard work of real citizenship.
Part of the Mission and Philosophy of SRV is a statement of core values that we uphold as individuals and members of the community. (See the Mission and Philosophy) In short, SRV values democracy, celebrates diversity, and is committed to non-violent conflict resolution and natural and social sustainability. At SRV teachers teach these values to students and expect that they will be practiced throughout the school. Adults practice these values as well, from establishing partnerships between teachers and parents, to working together democratically within the staff and the Board of Directors.
To function in a community with these values, students must develop strong social skills. At SRV teachers actively teach and model the skills and behaviors that allow for respectful and successful relationships, such as active listening, reading social cues, respecting others’ ideas, and resolving conflicts. The aim is for students eventually to develop independence in managing their relationships, so whenever possible the adults work to facilitate the students’ coming up with their own solutions to issues, rather than solving them for them or enforcing external rules or consequences.
Diverse communities are rich and complicated. At SRV we nurture complex inter-relationships among adults and children to strengthen the students’ social skills. The elementary classrooms are vertically grouped (two grades together) to provide a broad range of peers and allow students to be both protégés and mentors. Students sometimes have “buddies” from older or younger groups with whom they do special projects. During recesses and “mini-courses,” students of all ages play and work together. Students from preschool to the oldest group also take part in external community partnerships, connecting with area elders, students from other kinds of schools, and organizations working on local and global environmental and service projects.
Eating together daily contributes greatly to the school’s sense of community. Snacks and lunch are provided by the school. The philosophy of the food program promotes healthy eating, nutrition education, and the fellowship of adults and children eating the same food together “family style” in the classrooms.
Students, parents and staff enjoy taking part in educational and community special events and celebrations, which contributes to our sense of community. The school is non-sectarian, and we do not celebrate religious holidays here. We have our own seasonal celebrations, such as Apple Day, Winter Festival and May Fair. Together, the community celebrates the harvest with school-made apple cider, sings around a winter bonfire, and marvels at the children’s elaborate dancing in the spring.
Finally, the SRV community of children and adults is bonded by a shared sense of service and partnership. Parents and teachers partner in the education of the children. Students, parents and staff share in the responsibilities of caring for the school buildings and grounds. Many parents volunteer frequently, helping in the library, driving on field trips, and helping with special projects and events. And the Board of Directors of the school, which stewards the institution, is composed primarily of current and past SRV parents and staff members, and SRV alumni.