We caught up with the Geoff Ruth and Leann Speta to discuss their experience at Presidio Knolls. Their daughter Kyle (Grade 3) has been at PKS since Kindergarten. Before Leann's current focus on labor rights, she taught in a 2-way Spanish immersion school. Geoff is an avid mountain climber and on a typical day can be spotted picking up Kyle on his bicycle for two. The family resides in the Mission.
Q: How has inquiry-based progressive learning been a positive experience for your child?
Kyle now speaks Mandarin! We both think this is pretty remarkable, given that we don't, and that she entered PKS in kindergarten never having heard Mandarin (Kyle's first language is Spanish).
Beyond the obvious language benefits, we've seen Kyle grow to be more focused on the process in arriving at an answer, instead of just the final answer. She's genuinely curious about learning and can explain and analyze her thinking, both of which are hallmarks of constructivist pedagogy.
Q: Why did you decide to give your child a Mandarin learning environment?
There's a lot of educational research that learning multiple languages has lifelong cognitive benefits. We also strongly believe that being fluent in multiple languages is important to be part of an increasingly interconnected global community. We speak Spanish and English at home and wanted our daughter to learn a language we couldn't teach her; we were also really interested in her learning a language not based on the Roman/Latin alphabet.
Q: What have been the highlights from the Units of Exploration?
For Kyle, a clear highlight has been the Wonder Works project in 3rd grade. She found a topic (how to stop child mining) that she was really passionate about and pursued it independently. The support from the school and the community in this has also been terrific and has empowered her tremendously as she pursued this project.
Q: What was it like to be an early family at the PKS elementary school?
The community of PKS is unusually tight-knit, compared to other school communities, which is probably related to it being a start up school.
Q: What do you think makes PKS a special place?
The dedication and commitment of the teachers at PKS is terrific. They really have gotten to know Kyle as an individual, and have been so supportive of her.
Q: What advice do you have for prospective families?
Clearly, you can find elementary schools in San Francisco with fancier facilities than PKS. However, PKS is unique in the dedication of its teaching staff and in wholeheartedly embracing inquiry-based education in an immersion environment. In evaluating which school is best for your child, think about what your families' core values are and what you hope your child will remember from their experience in elementary school -- use those fundamental ideas to think about which school is best for your family.
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