Harmony School offers a broad liberal arts curriculum of academic courses, as well as courses designed to develop social skills (cooperation, responsibility, critical thinking, problem solving). Education is meaningful to Harmony students because they see it as both a process of personal growth and a means of increasing their power to contribute to society. They leave the school with the skills and the desire to make a difference.
Separate early childhood (ages 3-5), elementary (ages 6-12), middle (ages 13-14) and high (ages 15-18) school programs, each non-graded and personalized, emphasize cooperative learning. The design of the early childhood program varies slightly from the other programs. Within each of the other programs, students are grouped in classes with a 1:12 teacher-student ratio. In the mornings, students are grouped by age and interest into math, English, social studies and science classes. In the afternoons students choose electives (art projects, computers, psychology, music, drama, etc.) that enable them to interact with classmates of varying ages.
Time is provided and valued for students and teachers to share information and make decisions for the school community in a democratic setting. The sharing of responsibility is developmental, encompassing more important issues as the students’ skills increase. The curriculum is supplemented by extended field trips, visits from guest teachers, art experiences, creative writing publications, dramatic and musical performances, independent projects in the community and courses at Indiana University.
Teachers serve as counselors, making themselves available any time, and frequently take students into their homes for a night, a week or longer.
Teachers modify their classrooms and teaching methods to accommodate a variety of learning styles. This flexibility allows the school to adjust its focus and program capabilities in accordance with changing societal and student needs. The curriculum creates a fertile environment for peer tutoring. Students’ self-esteem is often enhanced through peer relationships in which those who excel in certain areas can assist others. Likewise, older students gain confidence as they help younger students.
We believe in educating students for participation in a democratic society, a task that demands critical reading and thinking, social and historical awareness, mathematical fluency, a grounding in scientific principles, and creative and flexible thinking. Through our core-classes in each of these areas, we work to help our students grow in each of these skills while also acquiring a life-long love of learning. With the younger students, there is more of a focus on using play and fun activities to teach these skills. For the older students, we continue to use hands on projects and activities but with an increased focus on academic skills.
Students who graduate from Harmony School earn the same Core 40 diploma that is earned by their peers in public schools. Nearly all of our students who are interested in pursuing 4-year colleges (Indiana University, Earlham College, etc.) are able to do so. Students who are interested in more technical trades find that the skills they acquire during classes, apprenticeships, and Senior Projects help prepare them for their chosen trade.
Exploration classes are elective classes that are offered in the afternoons. Teachers determine what they want to offer and to what age group for these month-long classes. The choices are offered during the last week of the month preceding the classes, and students select their first, second and third choices. If a student doesn’t get his first choice one month, the organizers try to honor this person’s first choice the following month. Sometimes the “teachers” are high school students, parents or members of the community. Often these are mixed-ages classes.
Exploration classes alternate in length from month to month. One month short Exploration classes will be offered on Monday and Tuesday from 1:00 until 1:50, and the next month long Exploration classes will be offered on Thursday afternoons from 1:00 until 2:45 p.m. This allows for more flexibility and larger blocks of time for programs to use at their discretion.
Here is a small sample of classes that have been taught:
- American History
- Partner Dance
- Halloween Parade Prize Making
- Silent Reading
- Role Playing Games
- Ultimate Frisbee
Family meetings are an opportunity for members of the community to learn the democratic procedures of cooperation, mutual respect, responsibility and social interest. Seeds are planted for people to believe that they can impact their communities and make a difference in the world. Family meetings are held in each program and are an integral part of the curriculum. They are held on a regular basis.
The time and frequency of the meetings vary from program to program. There is always an attempt for everyone to sit so that they can see everyone in the group. A circle is the ideal set up. Students are given more and more responsibility for problem solving and decision-making, as they get older and more experienced. Students deal with decisions that affect them.
Trips & Events
Trips are a very important part of our curriculum across the programs. We believe that they:
- broaden and enrich the curriculum by showing that learning does not just take place inside of a classroom.
- teach students important planning skills as they work on budgets and itineraries.
- provide the students with common experiences that give them a sense of cohesion.
- allow students to branch out and make new friends outside of their daily routine.
- give students a broader perspective than simply that of southern Indiana.
- let students explore living away from their families within a controlled environment.
- are worth all of the hard work that students, teachers, and chaperones put into them.
Beginning of Year
The school year begins with a 3-day and 2-night trip to McCormick’s Creek State Park for fifth graders through high schoolers. The younger students visit during the day. This is an opportunity to meet new students and help them assimilate into the community. It also allows returning students a chance to get reacquainted with each other and ease back into the school year in a relaxed manner. Many students bring their bikes and spend hours touring the park. All ages can engage in swimming, games in the clubhouse, preparing meals together, visits to the nature center, and an all-school Capture the Flag game the last evening. This is also a time to make choices for classes for the fall semester and get organized for the new school year.
Field trips are an integral part of many classes. Each program takes regular trips during the day to enrich the curriculum and take advantage of the wonderful resources that are available at Indiana University and in and around Bloomington. In an ecology class, students went to a local water treatment plant. In an afternoon music class, students learned about Hoagy Carmichael and then visited his grave to play “Heart and Soul” for him. During their Mysteries Theme the early childhood students went on a snapshot scavenger hunt around the neighborhood and solved a riddle at Cascades Park when they discovered the waterfall.
Other trips that were enjoyed by Harmony students in the past were:
- Cedar Bluffs for a biology field trip
- Muscatatuck River
- Jeff Hartenfeld’s flower farm
- Linda Lewis’ country home for a hay ride and picnic
- Trick or treating for UNICEF around Bloomington
- Brookville Reservoir for geology field trip
- Griffy Lake
- Glen Black lab
- Bryan Park
- Wyandotte Caves
- Indiana University Science Open House
- Feline Rescue Center
- Conner Prairie
- Indianapolis Children’s Museum
- Shelter Inc.
- Indiana Repertory Theater to see play, “Color of Justice”
- Hoosier Heights indoor climbing facility
- Monroe County Courthouse
- Bakehouse Bakery and Restaurant
- Frank Southern Ice Skating Rink
- Roller Skating Rink
- Indianapolis Youth Summit on Issues of Poverty
- New York City to the Anti-Globalization Rally and Education Forum
During the month of May, student in all the programs work to prepare for their Spring Trip. All of the students are able to give input on these trips, and the older students carry out much of the fundraising, itinerary planning, and preparation themselves. The younger students tend to stay closer to Bloomington on their trips, while the Middle School and High School students go further afield. These trips are an important part of Harmony students’ curriculum and are considered mandatory. Recent trip destinations have included:
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Edisto Island, South Carolina
- Savannah, Georgia
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Chattanooga, Tennessee
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Red River Gorge, Kentucky
Theme/Social Action Days
Each year Harmony School participates in special events that allow students and teachers from all the programs to interact with each other in meaningful ways and share important curricular experiences. Social Action Day occurs on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday every year. The other special events – Art day, Science/Math/Technology Day, Multicultural Day, Earth Day are annual events.
Social Action Day
Social Action Day is held each year on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. It is an opportunity for the school to acknowledge a great man by studying his life and exploring important social issues. After we begin with an opening assembly, students break up into a variety of workshops, field trips, and service projects both inside and out of Harmony School. These have included:
- Rhino’s Youth Center Anti-tobacco workshop
- Random Acts of Kindness
- Conflict Resolution
- Songs of the Civil Rights Movement
- Occupy Bloomington
- Young Americans for Liberty
- IU Coalition to End Human Trafficking
- Young Farmers of Bloomington
- Shalom Center
- Middleway House
- Pages to Prisoners
- Lake Griffy Cleanup
Art Day is usually the culmination of a month long, school-wide focus on the arts. During the month many exploration and creation classes are “art” oriented and taught by Harmony teachers and local artists. Older students also have the chance to share their talents with their peers and younger students in the school. On art day itself the halls and classrooms of the school are alive with creative activity as the school turns into a large studio filled with students, teachers, and community members expressing themselves through a multitude of media. The day ends with an art show for the Harmony community.
Click here to see a video of our Art Day from 2010!
Multicultural Day begins with a wide variety of “Creation” classes designed to raise each student’s multicultural awareness. These classes meet on Thursdays from 1-2:45 during March, and usually focus on the either the culture of a particular country (England, Brazil, China, Korea, Switzerland, etc) or on a cross-cultural theme (divination systems, martial arts, etc). Teachers work hard to bring in guest from these countries as well as experts so that students are able to get a first-hand account of cultural traditions. Then, on the last Friday in March, we celebrate Multicultural Day itself.
We begin with an opening assembly, following by an Open House where each students gets to share their learning with the school and also learn about the other classes offered. After the Open House comes an international banquet featuring traditional food from around the world, both prepared by Harmony parents and also donated by local restaurants. Finally, in the afternoon students sign up for workshops. In recent years, these workshops have included British darts, Ghanaian drumming, Brazilian capoeira, and Basque txalaparta.
Graduation milestones are achieved through a combination of academic, social and community achievements.
- demonstrating age-level achievement in language arts, math, science and social studies
- conducting a research project with a written and verbal presentation at the conclusion
- completing one week of volunteer work in the community
- earning credit in each of their core classes: math, language arts/social studies, and science
- earning a credit for social responsibility
- completing a semester-long graduation project
For more detailed information about Harmony High School’s graduation requirements, click here.
- Core Credits: Each student needs to have completed a total of 27 core academic credits (8 in Language Arts, 7 in Mathematics, 6 in Science, 6 in Social Studies, and 4 in Foreign Language)
- Social Dynamics: Each student must receive one Social Dynamics Credit for each year at Harmony. This is based on a set of 5 criteria designed by the students.
- Citizenship Vote: Each student needs to receive two citizenship votes (one their first semester, and one after they present their Senior Project). This vote is taken by the High School Family Meeting and asks: “Is this student a responsible, contributing member of the community with a sense of humor?”
- Senior Project: Each student needs to successfully complete and present their Senior Project. This project takes approximately one semester’s length (360 hours) to complete and culminates in a written and oral presentation for the whole High School.
Harmony’s graduates have gone on to attend some of the nation’s best and most innovative colleges and universities, including Columbia, U.C. Berkeley, Brown, Parsons, Earlham, Antioch, Hampshire, Indiana University, and Friends World College. On the California Achievement Test, Harmony students usually score one to three years above grade level. Harmony’s emphasis on lifelong learning, teamwork, and self-esteem gives those graduates entering the workforce the skills and attitudes necessary for success.
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