“Children here are kind to each other, and keep their innocence longer as a result.” – Maggie Rael, parent of two Anansi students
Spectacularly situated on a hilltop a few short miles northeast of Taos, New Mexico, Anansi Charter School served 175 students from kindergarten through eighth grade in a school where “whole heart” is a major focus.
Class sizes are small – between 20 and 23 students per grade – which allows teachers and administrators to know each child well, and to tailor learning experiences to his or her passions, interests, and strengths.
Anansi places a great deal of emphasis on social-emotional learning, and in building a caring, trusting community where students and teachers treat each other respectfully, where bullying is non-existent, and where children learn how to channel their energies and emotions in positive directions.
“We help students understand that the education of the heart and the mind blend together,” said Michele Hunt, who founded the school 24 years ago and still runs it. “It is a proactive approach to dealing with others.”
Anansi uses a variety of tools to help students understand how their brain chemistry affects how they react to strong emotions, and how to pause before reacting in situations where emotions run high.
A visitor to the school will notice that the atmosphere is calmer and more focused than in many schools. Student-created posters festoon the walls, espousing the virtues of collaboration, teamwork, and a safe learning environment.
“It’s just a very positive learning environment, a great atmosphere,” said Felisha Rascon, whose 12-year-old and 10-year-old sons attend Anansi. “Every teacher knows every child. You never hear ‘your child isn’t doing well.’ For each child, they find the key learning points and they bring out the best in every child.”
Parent Cristina Cisneros moved her third-grade daughter to Anansi this year from another charter school, where the social environment felt unhealthy.
“She cried every day and didn’t want to go to school because no one would play with her,” Cisneros said. “It started to have a negative impact on her schoolwork.”
At Anansi, her daughter was welcomed from day one. “They just focus on kindness and treating each other well so much,” Cisneros said. “They do a lot of group projects and everyone gets along. Now she’s excited about coming to school every day.”
Whole Body education is stressed as well. Anansi’s campus consists of adobe buildings grouped around a courtyard. There’s a large playground off to one side, and students get plenty of breaks to run around and burn energy. There’s no gymnasium so during the five weeks after the holiday break, students spend the entire day either downhill skiing at Taos Mountain, ice skating, or taking gymnastics classes.
Here’s how Hunt sums up the school’s philosophy: “Our students are taught from a young age about the sacredness of the classroom. In the classroom, as in the rest of your life, you always lead with kindness.”
For more information, watch this informational video about the school. It’s slightly outdated, made when the school went only through third grade, but still contains a good deal of relevant information.