Yocha-de-He Preparatory School
As outlined in the Educator Narrative of this submission, there are several uniquely exemplary design ideas that enhance learning. These include multi-age classrooms that allow students to have social interaction and learn in a communal setting and large learning spaces with enough room for indoor sports during inclement weather.
Adding to the flexibility of the learning environments are retractable canvas overhang roof at the entrance to the classrooms allows shade and protection from the elements in the communal courtyard, where students can play and also learn. A large garden, which the students are actively involved in maintaining, adds to the flexibility of bringing the learning environment outdoors. In addition to the classroom, the school program includes offices and a daycare center.
The most important aspect of the planning, programming and design process was integrated into the reconstitution of a Native American community. The school was planned as an entire new community was being planned. And as part of a larger community center complex, the school was designated the heart of the new community.
The plan for a community center, elementary school and administrative tribal office for the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians celebrates the interrelationship of culture, sheltered space and its scenic surroundings.
The center features an exhibition hall to showcase tribal art and artifacts, a 2,000 sf. multipurpose assembly/conference center reminiscent of a traditional tribal lodge, fitness room, library, classrooms, an office suite and kitchen.
Yocha-De-He Preparatory School was founded to respond to a need in the Rumsey Indian Rancheria community for an alternative educational experience for their children. Our vision was to create a school that would provide a quality education to its students, preparing them for for higher education, and incorporating Native American culture, traditions and history in the curriculum.
The school has three multi-age classrooms, responding to the age of the tribal students in attendance. The curriculum is flexible, responsive to individual student needs, and focused on personal as well as academic growth of each child.
The large classrooms allow for personalized learning. Students in the Senior Class have offices along one wall. The students learn individually, are free from distractions by others, and have wall space to display their completed work. The classroom space allows for individual instruction, work in small groups, and the opportunity to have different activities going on at the same time. Discipline and safety is maintained because every student can be seen.
Each student has his or her own computer. The classroom computers are networked and connected to the Internet. Students are trained to use the Internet and use their newfound skill to explore and gather information daily. The students use a microscope computer to examine insects and other found objects at a science station.
Bringing people together is key to our mission of building community. The high ceilings are not only attractive but provide space for indoor play on rainy days. We have had lively volleyball games inside with students and teachers. Social interaction on the playground and during lunch brings together students ages 3-14. Fathers and uncles come to the school during lunch, recess or after-school to play basketball and other games with the children.
Preparing food is a real world experience with complete student participation. Each room has a kitchen area with a gas range, microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher. We use the kitchens daily. Students prepare and serve their own lunch. Some days they bake frozen lasagne or macaroni and cheese. At other times, they cook from scratch. The goal is to teach students how to prepare food, the responsibility of cleaning up afterwards, good nutrition and serving/eating etiquette. It works!
The real-world experience in the valley is farming. With that in mind, the school maintains a large garden. The students have designed, measured and developed a plan for planting vegetables, fruits and flowers for their own use and to share.
Our living and learning space is large and multi-faceted. The students can be found studying anywhere. Sometimes they are in their offices, or at group tables, reading on the play equipment, or dancing in the rain on the stage with bare feet while wearing raincoats. What fun it is to have a beautiful, functional, flexible space for learning.
Director of School
Yocha-De-He Preparatory School