America’s heartland today still is dotted with many one and two-teacher elementary schools. In fact, 87% of all Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) elementary church schools are of this type. Special training for teachers planning to teach in these small,multi-grade schools was virtually non-existent until the fall of 1976 when Union College opened the George P. Stone Elementary School.
George Stone School is a one-room, eight grade, two teacher, SDA elementary school operated under the direction of the Teacher Preparation Committee of the Division of Human Development. George Stone is fully approved by the State of Nebraska and is a vital component of Union College’s elementary teacher preparation program.
From its beginning it has been dedicated to fulfilling three major purposes:
1. To provide practical laboratory experience for teachers-in-training.
Each year up to four student teachers at a time do supervised teaching for six- to nine-week time periods. While this change-over to less-experienced teachers can pose problems in program continuity, there are many advantages. In addition to a constant influx of new ideas presented by highly motivated, enthusiastic teachers, seldom can a classroom be found today with a ratio of one teacher per four students!
All student teachers’ daily plans are submitted 3-4 days ahead of time for approval and suggestions, and their work is regularly monitored by the classroom master teachers.
2. To provide the best possible Christian education for its elementary students.
We believe that the best possible education is a balanced, Christ-centered one.
Special emphasis is placed on helping each student establish and maintain a growing, loving relationship with Jesus. Through prayer and study students learn that the Bible is God’s infallible rule of faith for the Christian and that God is their Creator and Sustainer who wants their hearts and lives. Opportunities are regularly provided for sharing God’s love with one another and through service projects, with others in the community.
George Stone School is strong in academics. The class-room average on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills is above the national norm. Our basic philosophy is that every student must be expected to develop to his/her own potential, in an atmosphere free from anxiety and ridicule, yet challenging to growth. Personalized, continuous-progress programs are teacher-devised for every student. Each student is assisted in attaining masterly in each step of his/her program. Because programs are carefully planned to fit each student, completion of work is expected during school hours.
Seldom, if ever, is homework assigned. We believe that six and one-half hours of academics is enough for children and that free evening hours should be rich interaction times between parents and children.
Academic progress is monitored and assessed daily. No letter grades are given because all work is completed at a mastery level before additional work is attempted. Progress reports indicate the level of attainment, study habits and social development of the student.
The moral development of students is guided carefully. Opportunities are constantly provided for critical thinking and decision making. There is much social interaction among students at George Stone. Every effort is exerted to make the classroom atmosphere one of cooperation and concern for others. Cross-age tutoring is a way of life. Regularly assigned classroom duties provide opportunities for development of initiative and responsibility.
All students are taught habits of healthful living and are expected to participate in planned, teacher-supervised recess and swim periods where valuable lessons of sportsmanship are learned. Non-participation is by written parent request only and this is expected only on rare occasions.
3. To develop curriculum materials especially suitable for multi-grade schools.
George Stone follows closely the approved SDA Curriculum Guide for Small Schools and the Nebraska State Curriculum Standards. Occasionally, we deviate from the established program. The two regular teachers at George Stone are often asked to develop special materials for small schools. Such materials are then used first in our own school so strengths and weaknesses may be evaluated carefully. In addition to materials such as these created internally, we try out the most promising of the newly published commercial materials. This simply means that students at George Stone are constantly exposed to exciting educational innovations.