The U School Approach


Defining Ubuntu

Ubuntu (oo-buun-too) – has its origin in the Bantu languages of southern Africa. “I am because you are.” A philosophy of humanism, emphasizing the link between the individual and the collective group. Ubuntu seeks to unite individuals, while respecting their autonomy, for the betterment of the group.

The U School Philosophy Of Learning

The U School Philosophy of Learning is rooted in the recognition of each individual’s self-worth while embracing the importance of the collective group. We believe there is no one right way to learn, and therefore, a commitment to each child’s natural desire to learn is at the heart of the U School Philosophy of Learning. Our goal is to build each child’s foundation for and excitement about a lifetime of learning.

Child & Group Centered Learning

At The U School the children’s connection to their education is a priority. Teachers take on the role as facilitator, while children drive their own education. Our approach resembles certain aspects and combines elements of other established philosophies of learning including:

Reggio Emilia – Children have control over the direction of their learning with endless ways and opportunities to express themselves.
Open Learning – Self determined and interest guided learning.
Emergent Curriculum – A way of planning curriculum based on the child’s and group’s interest and passions.
Inquiry Based Learning – A form of active learning where children develop experimental and analytical skills.
Project Based Learning – Emphasizes activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary, and child centered.

Play-Based Experiential Learning

Play is the medium for which learning takes place at The U School. We agree with putting the long acknowledged link between play and learning, that play is the “work” of a young child, into practice on a daily basis. Our high quality play experiences build critical foundations for cognitive development, academic progress, pro-social skills, motor development, and imagination.

An action oriented style of planning, doing, reflecting, and doing again summarizes the experiential learning at The U School. Acquiring new skills and new attitudes best come from learning through direct experience. A fun and safe environment with dynamic staff facilitators keep learners engaged with their experiences.

Academic Curriculum

The U School’s Academic Curriculum is developmentally appropriate and child friendly. Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Reading, and Writing are all incorporated into The U School’s daily opportunities for learning. Academics are taught by providing developmentally appropriate opportunities, through choice and discovery, to expand on current and emergent skills. Our curriculum is based on state standards and benchmarks but is unique in the way we engage students through choice and allowing their natural interests to drive instruction. The U School focuses on giving children a voice in their education, which teaches responsibility, drives our interests, and gives students a willingness and desire to learn.

  • Students learn pre-emergent and emergent Reading and Writing skills to prepare them for elementary school. The U School provides a variety of authentic reading and writing experiences, including read-aloud sessions, shared reading, and guided reading. Writing is taught through practiced oral storytelling and shared writing experiences.
  • Mathematics is taught to children through developmental, center-based learning and hands-on activities to “discover” the mathematical world. Students are assessed on their conceptual knowledge of math, and instruction plans are built to support each student.
  • Science in our learning community engages students and teaches the scientific process as well as physical science through experiments and projects. We teach earth and life science through our community garden; animal exploration in our community; and studies of soil, water, and weather.
  • Cultural Studies is present throughout our school day. Place-Based Education takes advantage of our community partner network and we have a wide variety of hands-on experiences, field trips, and onsite presentations from friends and neighbors.

Peace Education

The U School is a community that practices peaceful and respectful conflict resolution. The U School has a Peace Plan, discourages violent play, and embraces conflicts as teachable moments. Conflict is a natural and normal aspect of humanity. Children are encouraged to develop a positive attitude towards conflict, where they take responsibility for their actions and become part of the solution.

The Ubuntu Peace Plan
Play and be safe.
Everything gets respect.
Awareness of your surroundings.
Communicate with each other.
Experience the Fun!

Anti-Bias Curriculum

This approach emphasizes the daily practice and recognition of the importance of diminishing biased behavior. “Everything is for everyone” is a belief practiced at The U School. All learning is presented without a culturally dominant view and with a value for all possible sides. Values of acceptance, tolerance, and respect flow from the U School’s founders and staff members.

Sustainable Environment Curriculum

This curriculum helps children explore the importance of planet Earth and the interdependence of species, where learning from the natural world and connecting children to it is a priority. Adopting attitudes of care and concern for the environment is a goal for the children and their families in our care. Waste management, natural resources, energy reduction, alternative energy sources, and food systems are concepts taught in this curriculum area.

Eco-Justice Education

This is a branch of environmental education with a focus on creating social justice for all human and non-human life, and focuses on our direct community and its ecological balance. The U School and its community partners serve as local change agents, combining ecological awareness and thoughtful action with the intention of developing lifelong sustainable practices and justice for all living species in our community.

Place-Based Education

We believe it is important to be rooted in one’s community and we use our resources and community members to create a deep love for our “place”. The U School understands our local community is a primary resource for learning. Through local service learning projects, hands-on stewardship, and active engagement with The U School’s community partners, children and families develop a deep understanding on our community’s history, culture, and ecology. Teaching a love and “sense of place” for what is in our immediate surroundings provides a grounding that helps children learn to take care of their own environments, backyards, communities and beyond.

Integrated Technology Curriculum

The U School capitalizes on technology innovations, and will remain on the cutting edge of technology, to offer an enriched environment that embraces young digital natives and the digital world in which they are growing. Our Integrated Technology Curriculum refers mostly to how teachers use technology, using a suite of apps and devices, to drive curriculum, document children’s learning, dig deeper into children’s inquiry about their world, and provide high levels of reflection for children as well as transparency for parents.

Arts Education

The U School incorporates Arts Education throughout our daily rhythms. Beyond supporting arts education within our classrooms, our art studio offers an environment for children to develop knowledge of art materials as “languages” through ongoing experiences of drawing, painting, clay, and loose parts. As children share in these experiences they increase their material knowledge of these languages and increasingly are able to demonstrate their understanding of their world, express themselves, and create.

Movement Education

Movement Education combines physical education curriculum and the daily practice of maintaining balance within your surroundings. Developing a love for physical movement and expression is important during the preschool years. The U School encourages children to move freely and to develop skills that allow them to do that within the collective group.

There are two curriculum areas inside our Movement Education program:

  • Motor skill development – Games, activities, and open ended play which emphasize gross and fine motor skill development.
  • Moving together in a shared world – Games, activities, and open ended play designed to encourage positive self-expression within our educational setting and beyond.

Skillful Togetherness Curriculum for U School Educators

What does “skillful togetherness” mean? Skillful togetherness builds an awareness of self and others in a community. Through the individual and collective exchange of ideas, materials, and experiences, feelings of value and empathy build connection and fun for all!

Our Skillful Tgetherness Curriculum has four parts – Ubuntu, The U School Lexicon, Mindful Parents & Educators, and Plans for PEACE & Conflict.


Early childhood communities are extremely complex environments with many unique needs and wants for all stakeholders. At the U School the philosphy of  Ubuntu is used as a powerful approach for relationship-forming and decision-making. Described as “super empathy,” Ubuntu has the power to strengthen the fabric of teaching teams and all community stakeholders.

The U School Lexicon

The U School Lexicon is a guide to speaking truthfully and usefully with children and other humans. It contains a vocabulary and framing which helps all people understand how they can be powerful problem-solvers, helps children and grown-ups communicate with less friction, and supports social-emotional and executive function development.

Mindful Parents & Educators (MP&E)

MP&E introduces four core mindfulness techniques to build individual practice that can focus and adjust our attention to adapt to life in a more optimal way—Focus Out, Focus In, Focus on Rest, and Nurture Positive. The applications of these techniques are further explored in the context of teaching and classrooms through a continuum of ways to share these awareness practices with the children in our care.

Plans for PEACE & Conflict

The Ubuntu PEACE Plan is a proactive cultural community plan for keeping the fun before conflict arises. It coaches community stakeholders towards more concrete and shared understandings of safety, awareness, and interpersonal communication.

Conflict is a normal aspect of humanity, and can be embraced as teachable moments through peaceful and respectful conflict resolution strategies. When conflict has arisen, The Ubuntu Plan for Conflict guides stakeholders through the process of returning to the fun through actionable problem-solving solutions.

Curriculum Delivery

Activity Planning Using the 5 E’s

Documentation, or learning stories, provide a recording of children’s experiences, memories, thoughts, and ideas in the course of their work. Teachers use documentation to become increasingly aware of the participation, interests, and development of each child. This awareness enables teachers to plan with the children to create learning experiences in which children will engage with enthusiasm. Documentation can be created using a variety of methods and multimedia materials including documentation panels/posters, models, charts, books, videos, etc. Documentation can include artifacts of children’s works, language from experience (children’s quotes, teacher thoughts), as well as photos and video.

Child Portfolios are collections of developmental milestones and memories. Child Portfolios are maintained digitally through Storypark, which provides an easy-to-use private online service that helps teachers, parents, and families work together to record, share, and extend children’s learning.