Welcome to the Open Classroom

In celebration of 50 years of the Lagunitas Open Classroom, we will be posting stories, images and reminiscences from the past.  Above we have a photo taken when Open was about 10 years old.

News and Views

Martha Allen:  When volunteering means poetry

Martha Allen: When volunteering means poetry

When I retired after 36 years of teaching in the Tam District, I was ready for a change and thought I might like to volunteer at my local elementary school. I was welcomed by the principal who set up a schedule for me in the Montessori, Waldorf and Open Classroom...

To Make A Difference screens Dec 11

To Make A Difference screens Dec 11

https://youtu.be/KIQq9MrFDjA Tom Valens was an active co-oper during the years his children were in the Open, not to mention following his wife Amy's involvement with progressive education since college. Being a documentary filmmaker, he saw an opportunity to share...

Amy Sickler: Growing into Cooping

Amy Sickler: Growing into Cooping

The first time I visited Open Classroom I was overwhelmed. There were so many things happening I wasn't sure what was what, but I loved how the teachers talked with the children and the other parents talked to us. When we left I said to my husband, “I don't know what...

The Open Classroom is a parent-cooperative, multi-age public-school elementary program located in San Geronimo, Marin County, California.Along with a public Montessori program and a progressive Middle School program , it is part of the Lagunitas School District.

Here are just a few ways our program stands out:

The Art Room is an integral part of the Open Classroom, with children K-6th passing through on a daily basis. From morning to lunch time the room can be filled with bustling activity, open-ended projects with recyclable material, wood, paper or fabric as well as projects being taught by the art teachers (Kristy Arroyo 3x week and Molly Edwards 1x week) and parent volunteers covering curriculum standards in color theory, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, crafts, textiles, collage and painting. The Open Classroom teachers also collaborate closely with the art room staff and volunteers and utilize the art room for whole group activities such as theater, fundraising events, presentations and class lessons (history, science and language arts). The 5th and 6th graders are given advanced art instruction once a week and involve the art teacher as a resource for materials and support with major projects.  See the Art Room Blog to learn more

"As an Open Classroom dad, I can't express how valuable co-oping has become to my family.  Lisa and I know all of the teachers, most of the staff, many of the parents and all of our daughter's peers.  We see first hand where our daughter excels and where she needs help. We see how she connects socially with students, teachers and other parents.  Most importantly, the line between home life and school is very blurred so learning and play, fun and work occur naturally throughout every day. " - James S
GardenHands-on time in the garden and barnyard gives our kids a tangible connection to the environment.  Learning about natural cycles of growth and decay, taking care of chickens and rabbits, growing food then preparing it to share with others adds another dimension to the classroom education.
Gabi works movement magic with all of our students in small groups.  Combining sensory integration theory, ideas from occupational therapy, fun and play, Open Classroom kids get much more than just "P.E.".  Movement is part of the everyday experience in our program and it ties into emotional, social and academic development.  What does movement look like? Some days it's bouncing on a trampoline, other days it's trapeze, maybe tossing balls around... it often takes different shapes, but is always awesome.


In the late 1960’s, the San Geronimo Valley, like most of the country, was in a state of flux.  New residents, a good number of them artists or working in helping professions, found homes in its canyons and clearing.  Often they found common ground around civil rights issues.  Many were raising families.  They became involved in cooperative pre-school groups.  Sandra and Jack Dorward were part of a growing group of parents with school-age children who were looking for a more progressive, pragmatic approach to education, and  attended school board meetings of the Lagunitas School District to start a dialogue about innovative educational ideas with board members, talking about ways to accomplish them in the public school.



Members of the Open Classroom community see social, physical, emotional, and academic growth as being interrelated and of equal value. In order to meet the needs of the total child, we emphasize respect for the individual and individual learning styles, emotional growth and freedom of choice. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget has shown that there are patterns and sequences to the learning of certain skills; we use these as guides and recognize that individuals do not follow precise timetables. To help our children develop a sense of responsibility for their own progress, we encourage them to make choices. As educator John Holt said, “Only from making choices and judgments can the child learn to make them better, or learn to trust his own judgment.”