Late in 1999, a small group of people associated through the Ecological Learning Center and the Community Supported Garden at Genesis Farm joined together to envision a public school based on ecological literacy and sustainability, a school to invite children into a worldview of hope and the potential for positive change. Inspired by the work of cultural historian Thomas Berry, evolutionary cosmologist Brian Swimme, Genesis Farm co-founder Miriam MacGillis, educators Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori, and circle practitioner Christina Baldwin (among others), these parents, educators, businesspeople, and community activists explored, researched, reflected, and discussed a vision of elementary education to empower children to stewardship based on a deep love of the earth and respect for the planet’s myriad systems and interconnections.
Years of collaborative visioning and practical preparation led to a successful application to the New Jersey Department of Education Office of Charter Schools, and Ridge and Valley Charter School opened in September 2004 with 76 children in kindergarten through 8th grade. Development of the school’s campus, facilities, and educational program attracted creative, innovative teachers and staff which led to successful charter renewals in 2008 and 2013. Unique in its application of foundational concepts of mutually-enhancing relationships; outdoor, experiential education; integrated and differentiated studies; and constructivist, child-centered learning, RVCS continues to be a model of comprehensive innovative educational practice centered on ecological literacy and sustainability.
Founding group establishes school vision and manifestation
Ridge and Valley Charter School opens in temporary facilities, kindergarten through 8th grade
School moves to 1234 State Route 94, first graduating class
Development of school gardens, native species outdoor learning environments, integrated curriculum and curriculum lenses, Key Learning Experiences, Earth Olympics, student-to-student mentoring
Successful application for charter renewal, first graduates start college
Implementation of Readers and Writers workshop model, Connected Math and Integrations Math programs, further development of project-based learning, after school clubs, school orchard, 8th grade individual service learning projects, facility expansion. Ridge and Valley Charter School featured as a model of collaborative governance in The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea.
Refinement of Whole Student Reports, student-led conferences, Celebration of Learning, and independent projects, student-organized visit and presentation by ecological activist Julia Butterfly Hill
Successful application for charter renewal, RVCS becomes one of the few middle schools selected for participation in the Bill Gates/David Christian Big History Project.
Ongoing development of expeditionary curriculum, integration of student-grown and local foods into field experiences, collaboration with community organizations and local, regional, national, and international experts