As students in Pamela Brown's class created collages for their poetry journals, Amy Schuenman, a fourth-grade student at Primavera School, said she loves her school.
"I've been here since preschool," Amy said. "When you get to know everyone like we do it's a family. I wish it could go up to college here."
That feeling of community and family has been a central part of Primavera School since its founding in 1972, and a major reason so many alumni are coming from all over to its 40th anniversary celebration this Saturday, said Carol Darrow, director of the school.
The celebration will run from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8 and include a barbecue for current students, their families, teachers, staff, and alumni, tile making to decorate a wall at the school, activities for children, arts and crafts, as well as live music by the band Bodacious and friends.
For more information and to buy tickets to the event, please go to the school's website www.primaveraschool.org or call 928-445-5382.
"All the proceeds from the event will go to restoring Bill's dragon - a work of the heart - on the playground that is showing wear," Darrow said.
Bill's dragon was created by teachers, staff, students and parents in remembrance of Bill Wielgos, who taught at the school and died in an automobile accident in 1997, Darrow said.
Rebecca Ruffner, a founder of the school, said the idea for Primavera School grew out of the educational reform in the 1960s.
"We were looking at new approaches to connecting how we teach with what was known at the time about how children learn," Ruffner said. "People were starting small community schools to provide a more active learning approach."
Cynthia Earl, a local woman, was interested in the concept of a private school and donated the property, Ruffner said.
The land was originally a goat farm so the farmhouse was converted to classrooms, and through the years other buildings were added as enrollment increased from the original 20 students in 1972 to the 130 students there today.
Michelle Beck, a parent and former Primavera School board member, said her two sons Henry and Elliot both started at Primavera School in 2003 and graduated.
"Being new to the area I was drawn to the small family atmosphere of Primavera School," Beck said. "I liked that I could have my pre-schooler and my kindergarten child both at the same place."
Henry is now a 7th-grader, and Elliot is a high school freshman, Beck said.
"What I loved about Primavera was the emphasis on strong academics as well as music, art and outdoor education," Beck said. "Primavera truly educated the 'whole child' and that has allowed Henry and Elliot to be the successful students that they are today."
Brown, who has taught at the school for 38 years, said they use all the intelligences in each standards-based unit, and one of the highlights is the Shakespeare festival, where students choose characters, dress as them, recite lines from the plays, and perform dances.
As Quinn Smith, a fourth-grader, layered tissue paper and artwork on his journal cover, he looked at information about Henri Matisse's paper cutouts on the SmartBoard that Brown had talked about earlier, and said he liked how challenging the school was and learning French, Spanish and typing.
"Children learn best when they're in a trusting environment, guided by devoted teachers who understand each child as an individual," Ruffner said. "People are coming from near and far for the anniversary celebration and I think that shows not only the importance of these relationships, but also the longevity of them."
One alumna, Brooke Benjamin, 21, is giving back to Primavera school by assisting the teacher in the three-year-olds' classroom.
"This school has always been my family, and I have such strong feelings for this school," said Benjamin, who attended Primavera from preschool through fifth grade. "I hope I can make a difference in these kids lives the way my teachers did in mine."
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