Mountain Sun provides a strong academic understanding of fundamental skills in reading, writing, math, critical thinking, and investigation, while honoring each child’s unique blend of intelligences. Compelling content in language arts, math, and science engages each child in the discovery of their academic strengths, passions,and interests. We emphasize hands-on materials and experiential lessons that facilitate meaningful experiences that challenge students intellectually.
Mountain Sun embraces the Montessori philosophy of education with multi-age classrooms, a carefully prepared environment with developmentally appropriate materials, and independent learning. We believe children thrive in the intellectual and social diversity of multiage classrooms where competition is reduced and collaborative learning is balanced with independent initiative. In this setting, every child can focus on his or her own individual path within a continuum, and this, in turn, fosters responsibility to self and others. Our educators intentionally and skillfully guide each child on their own learning journey by balancing individual and group lessons with self-guided studies.
Using a variety of mindfulness practices, Mountain Sun helps children discover the nature of their own minds. Daily centering circles and exercises, regular yoga practices, and mindfulness meditation techniques help children slow down and improve concentration. Both in the classroom and in the forests that serve as our campus, children learn the importance of following the breath to reduce the noise of the mind in order to connect more completely with themselves, each other, and the natural world.
The mountains and forests of Western North Carolina serve as an important area of learning for our children and our families. For our youngest students, the unstructured play of daily outdoor time on our campus turns into a grand adventure. As children get older, they go out on a variety of expeditions. Lower Elementary students begin with family camping trips, and Upper Elementary and Middle School students go on multi-day backpacking and camping trips in the forest or to outdoor education centers like Buffalo Cove.
When children understand the connections between the species around them, they begin to have a more complete understanding of their relationship to nature and their place in it. Whether through the simple act of recycling or composting or through the in-depth study of ecosystems and ecology, Mountain Sun students recognize the complex network of relationships and consequences that make up the natural world.
We value the power of growth in the outdoors, from the personal and group transformations that are possible in the woods to understanding of how seeds emerge. We have spaces on campus to introduce students to the fundamentals of gardening, and our older students explore the principles of permaculture through partnerships with local farms and homesteads including Eight Owls Farmstead.
Creative expression of identity is fundamental to a child’s development. Daily opportunities are provided for children to cultivate creative expression and integrate such expression into the learning of traditional academic material. Often, our art lessons incorporate the natural world through representation, abstraction, or the use of natural materials.
Mountain Sun encourages students to enjoy creating a variety of objects. Children may receive lessons in pottery, knitting, crochet, embroidery, felting, and carving. Indoors and out, children learn to take pleasure in the work of their hands.
Through lessons and frequent group singing, Mountain Sun students learn to appreciate the joys of creating music. In the younger grades, children learn the fundamentals of rhythm and melody. Older children are introduced to the basics of music theory, harmony, and learning to play an instrument.
In addition to the importance of independent, individual work, Mountain Sun students frequently work together on both daily work and larger projects. Our classrooms enjoy the quiet hum of productive collaboration as students turn to each other for advice or assistance on the work. The multi-age classroom creates many opportunities for collaboration and friendship across the grades, as the older students emerge as mentors and leaders for the younger students learning their way.
In any group, it is natural for conflict to arise, and, in many ways, the productive resolution of this conflict is some of the most important work for children and adolescents. Each of our classrooms has a peace table where children are able to find calm and talk through challenges. Beginning with our youngest students, we teach the language of peaceful conflict resolution utilizing active listening and empathy. As they grow, children expand their natural ability to have healthy, rewarding relationships with other children and adults.
Through active contributions to the school community and service learning projects, Mountain Sun students realize their connections and responsibilities to communities near and far. By tending to their classrooms and each other, our students practice acts of kindness that build a foundation of caring that can extend outward. As they get older, they engage in service projects to understand and help other communities in Brevard and the world at large.