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New Perspectives - Aug, 1997 Issue #47

Crescent City, Florida
Frank Beeman

Founded in 1971, Stonesoup School is a small, inexpensive school based on alternative education ideas very popular at the time of their founding: small classes (many of them experiential), consensus management of the school with students having an equal voice in most decisions, students exploring their own interests, rural environment with a lot of rural activities, environmental awareness, and practicing “non- violent ways of conflict resolution.” For those working with contemporary emotional growth schools and programs, many of these aspects will be very familiar, while others have been dropped or de-emphasized as impractical with difficult to work with out-of-control teens. 

“The students are free to choose from the classes offered. Their choice is based on the individual needs, and with staff counsel. Course work is completed independently, in small groups, or in one-on-one tutorials with teachers.”

“A full range of academic classes are offered. Our vocational/elective studies include gardening, cooking, carpentry, basic electrical work, plumbing, automotive, and many others.... artistic talent is encouraged.”

“Additional [activities]... may include canoeing a river, hiking a nearby National Forest trail, or a camping trip just to experience the enjoyment of our surroundings. Between our nature trips and our daily lifestyle, we see growing in our students an appreciation for our planet.”

“Stonesoup school is run by consensus.... The meetings are used to discuss agreements for governing our group; they may also become a time to air any grievances one might have with another person.... Learning to live in a community with others is an important part of life at the school.”

“As a member of the National Coalition of Alternative Schools, their overall beliefs about learning are supported by Stonesoup School.”

“Human beings learn best when we are self motivated. We learn best when... free to explore our own interests. We learn best when we take responsibility for our education. We learn best when we can develop a personal relationship with our teachers. We learn best when we get to make important decisions about things that directly affect us. Learning and life are basically the same thing.”

Frank Beeman has been associated with the school for virtually all of its existence. He currently is revitalizing the school from some recent setbacks from lack of attention. One graduate of the school, who currently is running a successful school for difficult to work with teens in another state, says, “Their approach was working very well when I was there years ago.” Although their staff-student ratio of 1:5 would probably not be tight enough to succeed with more difficult out-of-control teens, the school might be worth while checking out for a child who mostly just needs to get out of town and away from negative friends, or is floundering in school and needs more personal attention. Another attraction is the low tuition, which by most measurements I am familiar with is below cost. They currently are enrolling students ages ten to eighteen years of age and as of May 20th, had three students on campus.

Copyright © 1997, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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