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  • Writer's pictureJenn Jordan

Advantages of a Small School Education

Big schools, public or private, might have many sports teams, music programs, social activities, gifted programs, theater productions, etc. Each of these programs might have it's own funding stream, staffing, facilities, etc. If you are someone who is easily able to find their niche in these big programs and be successful, there is a lot that big schools have to offer that a smaller school can't.

But how many students are successful at these larger schools? Certainly not all. For some students, the crowds are daunting. Economy of size can make adolescents feel invisible or powerless. And what about the student who doesn't know what they are interested in yet? How much room is there to try things out just for a little while?

I know from experience as both a teacher and a student the advantages a smaller school can have. I started my 9th grade year at one of Columbus's public high schools, one with a reputation for good academics. I was strong academically, but I didn't know how to get involved. I loved science, but my science teacher was also the football coach and was too busy to find out about the quiet girl in the 4th row during 2nd period. I was just kind of drifting.

My 10th grade year, I received a scholarship to a small private high school which was just getting started. This was a tremendous boost for me. There was no blending in in such a small environment. My love of science was immediately recognized, and I was given individualized opportunities to explore beyond my regular classroom work. I didn't have to get into a gifted program to do this. My teacher was able to make time and space for me to perform my own experiments. And when Physics wasn't my cup of tea but I loved Biology, this wasn't a problem. I was supported to take on AP Biology regardless of the fact that there weren't "enough" students to make an entire class. No economy of size to consider.

This individualized attention meant that by my first year of college, I had developed the confidence to speak up in a crowd. I started as a Biology major at OSU having tested out of the introductory course work. My professors were prominent in their fields. I was really excited to work with them. I knew what I wanted to do, and I went to their office hours and asked to be given an opportunity to get involved in research projects.

I was shocked when they told me "come back in two years." This was because the lab positions were limited and older students were given priority. So I started looking for a small, independent school which was willing to give me a scholarship as a transfer student. I found one. I was managing a professor's lab by the end of my first year there.

I know that these aren't every student's experience at large schools. Smaller schools aren't for every student and Earth School doesn't try to be. But there is something that small schools can offer to every student, opportunities to be seen and get involved, without consideration for the economy of size.

So what about the student who excels in music, sports or theater or the student who just wants to try one of these for the first time? There are many opportunities in Columbus to be part of these activities outside of organized high school programs and Earth School will do everything we can to support students in discovering and participating in these programs. One of the advantages of going to a small, private school is having flexibility.

At Earth School we are very clear about our mission.

We provide an ecocentric learning community to support every student’s development with:

  • authentic social connections;

  • engagement through head, heart and hand; and,

  • identity exploration through deep experience.

We we don't need to be a one-stop shop for every adolescent interest. What we strive to be is a strong academic program aligned with the Earth Carter to put special emphasis on Environmental Action Through Research and Technology. This is something that no other school in Columbus currently offers. If this isn't your cup of tea, that's fine. But if this is something you are interested in, don't let our small size fool you. Our small size gives us real advantages when it comes to delivering a highly individualized program where adolescents can both explore and excel in any area academic or otherwise.

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