Students who leave with a Sudbury education, leave with the confidence to direct their own lives, recognize and pursue their passions, work within a community, and are able to maneuver in a world that is constantly flexing. This is truly an education for a changing world.
The Trillium School’s Curriculum is based on that of the Sudbury Valley School, founded in Massachusetts in 1968. The Trillium School curriculum is fully student-driven. Students pursue their own interests in as many different ways as there are students. Some of these may look “traditional”, while most will be anything but. Students interact freely with other students and staff of all ages, blurring the lines of traditional roles such as “student” and “teacher”. All members of the community participate as peers in the School Meeting, the democratic body that debates and votes on day-to-day operations of the school. The school is truly democratic, with no ultimate authority or veto power held by adult staff. In this environment, Trillium students gain the skills, confidence, and experience necessary to pursue any future they choose.
One of the primary goals of any education should be to help children grow into independent, self-motivated adults, capable of taking the initiative in the management of their lives. The Trillium School accomplishes this goal by creating an environment where students practice independence and initiative every day.
The Trillium curriculum is self-directed, meaning that students have both the opportunity and the responsibility to shape their own education. This means that staff do not control the environment or dictate student activities. Instead, they are available as resources to students whenever they are needed. In an environment where one’s actions are constantly directed, it is easy to become reliant on such direction. In contrast, Trillium students learn to resolve their own conflicts and problems without depending upon adults to “fix” things for them. Like all adults, students have the chance to learn through both success and failure. Through this process they learn the incredibly valuable skill of identifying and following their own interests and passions, and they are able to reach depths in these areas that might not be possible in more “structured” environments.
The vital, and challenging, task of direction is left in the hands of students. Having learned how to manage their own time and direct their own activities, students leave Trillium with the ability to direct their own lives as competent, independent adults.
Although many freedoms are enjoyed at The Trillium School, they do not come without responsibility. Being part of a community requires that people take responsibility for their actions and the impact of those actions on the community. We believe that people of all ages best learn responsibility toward themselves and others by being given real responsibility with real consequences.
Everyone at Trillium is accountable to the community for their actions, staff and students alike. As importantly, they are accountable to themselves – Trillium students are fully in charge of their own education, and part of that education is learning to shoulder the responsibility of directing their own lives. The self-directed aspect of the Trillium curriculum, while allowing students great freedom, also places the responsibility for each student’s education squarely on their own shoulders.
At Trillium, students are empowered to make real decisions of real importance, for both themselves and the school. In doing so, they learn to trust themselves.
With no testing or external assessment, students are free to set their own definition of success. Students also have the freedom and space to truly challenge themselves, and to struggle with difficult situations while being trusted to find their own solutions. Through that trust, Trillium students gain great confidence – to know that they are capable of making their own decisions, to know that they are capable of correcting and learning from any mistakes they make, and to ask for help when they need it.
At the heart of the Trillium community is the idea of respect. Staff and students are always available to support each other, as resources, mentors, helpers, and, above all, peers and friends. Not everyone gets along all the time, but the community maintains a clear expectation that people treat each other with respect.
Although the school includes people of many ages, abilities, interests, and levels of experience, it is understood that these differences do not entitle anyone to act as an authority figure or dictate the actions of another. Only the School Meeting and its sub-committee, the Judicial Committee (on which all students and staff serve in turn) have the capacity to direct the actions of school members, and these bodies go to great lengths to make sure that their decisions are made with respect and compassion foremost in mind.
Age mixing is another key aspect of the Trillium community. Students and staff of all ages participate in a variety of activities together, with each person learning from the others. Students gain the vital skill of socializing with people of all ages with confidence and mutual respect.
At Trillium, the lines between student and teacher, work and play, are often blurred, if not erased entirely. People of all ages participate and share in different activities, exploring interests together and separately. Every person at Trillium contributes to the sense of vital, vibrant community that makes Trillium feel as much like a thriving village as like a school.
The environment at Trillium allows students to make transitions in a natural way, at the time and in the manner that they choose. This applies equally to both day-to-day transitions and larger life transitions. Because they are not constrained by class schedules, students can choose when to move from one activity to the next, and they can move about the school as they please. With no grades, students also make more natural transitions from one year to the next. They continuously interact with people of all ages, and can grow at their own pace, rather than being made to learn the same things at the same rate as other students in the same grade.
Likewise, students can decide when they are ready to move on from Trillium, and where to go from here. There is no pressure on students to follow a particular path during or after their time at Trillium – the goal of the Trillium education is for students to learn how to identify and pursue what is important to them. The skills gained at Trillium can be applied to any path, be it higher education, work, or travel. Confidence, flexibility, a willingness to experiment, the ability to learn and think for themselves – these are the skills that Trillium students acquire as they prepare to make the transition into the world at large.