Gillingham Charter School provides a respectful learning environment based upon the belief children are foremost, persons. Intentionally small, giving every student the opportunity to learn at his or her own pace and develop life-long friendships.
In keeping with the Relational Education principle, our curriculum is full of living books, living things, living ideas, tailored to meet Pennsylvania state standards. Books and other learning tools must be full of concepts that intrigue, delight, question, and enlighten. We offer a rigorous and challenging curriculum using whole books instead of textbooks in all subjects, except Math. Here we emphasize understanding mathematical concepts instead of rote memorization of equations and formulas. Students not only cover the core curriculum required by the state, they grow to truly understand math and its applications in real life.
Another key component of Relational Education is that the curriculum must be broad. Our students experience the Arts Education, Music Education, Foreign Languages, and a variety of School Sports as a regular part of their learning, starting in Kindergarten and continuing through graduation.
Gillingham’s Relational Education curriculum is offered with the guidance of Charlotte Mason Institute, a nonprofit organization that brings together relational educators from across the globe to accredit schools, train teachers, and tailor curriculum for public, private, and home schools. CLUSA’s public charter branch offers a non-sectarian curriculum based on the teachings and philosophy of Charlotte Mason, and meets all Pennsylvania Department of Education’s current state standards. (link to a revised section called “The Teaching Philosophy of Charlotte Mason).
A NOVEL APPROACH TO GRADES
Gillingham uses a different methodology to assess what our students have learned. Exams use open-ended questions, such as “Tell about the Class: Insects” or “Tell about Cleopatra” in order to discover the depth of their knowledge on the subject matter.
Exams are held three times a year, with the results reflected not in actual grades, but in narrative form. Our report cards clearly tell the student, teacher, and parent what the student has learned and has not learned. An individual plan is then formulated in order to ensure any gaps are corrected, and that the student is adequately challenged in the upcoming trimester. However, in order to facilitate the secondary education process, upper grades transition into a more traditional grading system to prepare for college applications.
ALL INCLUSIVE LEARNING
Schuylkill County’s only public charter school, Gillingham, is nestled on the side of Sharp Mountain. Steeped in history, our brick school building was constructed by volunteers in 1892. For years, students attended St. John the Baptist Elementary School and enjoyed the playground adjacent to the former Bunker Hill Elementary School. Shuttered in the 1980’s, our building was used intermittently until the summer of 2011 when the Gillingham Collaborative lovingly and with respect for the history and architecture of the building, renovated the school to bring it up to current safety and access codes.
It is not difficult to surround our students with beauty and order in this atmosphere. Glorious wood staircases, soaring ceilings, spacious rooms, and hardwood floors are only a few of the marvelous attributes of one of Pottsville’s oldest schoolhouses. The neighborhood is comprised of historic homes and buildings, which provides a delightful mix of architectural styles that reflect Pottsville’s varied history.
Like the building, the outdoors of the schoolhouse offers much for the students to see, explore, and enjoy. The woods rest behind the building, green mossy lawns surround it with little gardens and tall trees, and two public parks are only a block away. Gillingham is within walking distance to the Pottsville Public Library and cultural attractions, such as the Schuylkill County Historical Society, Schuylkill County Council for the Arts, and the Sovereign Majestic Theater. These, among others, are much-frequented destinations for field trips and learning opportunities for our students.