Educator, psychologist, and reformer Elisabeth Irwin founded the Little Red School House, an experimental curriculum within PS 61 in the Village, ninety years ago. While the school has grown over the years—it now offers a pre-kindergarten through High School education — it continues its progressive curriculum of social justice, active citizenship, and community service. The Little Red School House/Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) will be presented with a 2012 Village Award at GVSHP’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 7th in recognition of its historic contributions to the Village.
Elisabeth Irwin founded her experiment in education in 1921, changing both the layout of the classroom as well as the rote curriculum of the day. Students explored the community around them on frequent field trips, and expressed their ideas through storytelling, writing and painting, block building and mapping, singing, dancing, and performing. In essence, students learned by doing.
The Great Depression changed the direction of the school. Budget cuts forced the closure of Little Red, at least as part of a public school. Parents and reformers raised funds to continue the program, but the school system would not reopen the school. Irwin, along with parents and other reformers, successfully opened the school as a private institution. The school remained committed to its origins, serving a diverse student population at a low cost. In 1941, the school experienced another big change when it opened a high school on Charlton Street. The high school expanded in 2010 with the purchase of a neighboring townhouse.
LREI was founded on the ideals of reform and progressivism, ideals that speak to and build upon the larger history of the Village. LREI will be presented with a Village Award for ninety years of educating our children through hands-on learning that challenges students to ask questions, think deeply, and make a positive impact in the world. We hope to see you at GVSHP’s 2012 Annual Meeting as we honor the garden and seven other awardees who are being honored for their contributions to the Village. Stay-tuned to Off the Grid for upcoming posts on our other 2012 Village awardees.