You have to take enough time to get kids deeply involved in something they can think about in lots of different ways. ~Howard Gardner

Three Centered Learning

Education must develop the feelings, mind and the body in an integrated and balanced way. For learning to be permanent and real, (as opposed to rote and mechanical) children need to be taught from, and be active in, engaging these three “centers.”

Feeling Center: Learning must be meaningful for children. It must engage their passion, curiosity, and arouse feelings of personal interest and longing to understand more deeply. The feeling center has to do with connecting and experiencing from within.

Moving Center (body): Children learn with their bodies; they engage their senses, experience through moving and imitating, and manipulate their environment to find out for themselves how things work. Children engage their bodies fully throughout the day so they can channel their immense energy into all areas of learning.

Visit to the Shambala Mountain Center during our History of Law studies.

Visit to the Shambala Mountain Center during our History of Law studies.

Intellectual Center (mind): Children need to be mentally active in wondering, asking questions, talking, problem solving, synthesizing, and analyzing. They plan, organize, think, infer, and engage a mental process to work with and make sense of information.

The harmony of these three centers is a large determining factor in fully developing a child’s gifts and capacities. Learning unfolds best in an environment that honors a child’s natural rhythm and energy, which is the fuel for the entire creative process. This means allowing all children time to balance being physical, focusing, playing, being quiet, sharing feelings and ideas, and working alone and in groups.

Taking Responsibility for Learning: The Need for Guidance and Self-directed Exploration

Our students become self-motivated learners by being given more responsibility for their education. To achieve this goal children need guidance from adults as well as opportunities and support in exploring personal interests and passions. At Running River children are allowed to expand into their learning, rather than having information fed to them. We “open the floodgates” by giving them real opportunities to show what they can do, and then guiding them to fill in the gaps of what they don’t yet know.

For example, when a child is learning to read, they need help in developing strategies to decode and understand language. They also need time to look at books of their choice, be read to, and explore all variety of written language. The same is true in most topics. Time and space to explore, experiment, and discover through personal experience topics they are naturally drawn to on their own, connects all learning circuits.

As children gain skills, they are given choices in applying those skills to further their learning. We engage teachers, parents and mentors to help children pursue their interests. For example, students use math skills to build, cook school lunches or plan the garden. Children choose electives in the arts and in life-skills. They teach each other in all subject areas and collaborate on projects. They create guidelines for the school community and choose curriculum content.

Our goal is for children to help run our entire school, developing confidence and responsibility from real life challenges and opportunities.


We give children the understanding and ability to accomplish any task from conception to completion. Preskills are strategies that can be universally applied to tasks and situations regardless of their complexity. Preskills include planning, organizing, accessing prior knowledge, seeing the relationship between things and correlating similarities and differences. These are fundamental principles of whole thinking where a child can envision an entire project and break it into its component parts.

For example, in a baking project a child would need to make sure he had the recipe (plan), ingredients, utensils, and the time needed for the process before beginning. Developing Preskills is a core principle in helping children learn how to approach learning or doing anything new.

Transferable Knowledge™

Once you learn a particular skill or strategy, it can be applied in other learning situations. For example, if a child practices over and over and finally learns how to successfully hit a baseball, those same learning skills can be applied to a difficult math problem. The child needed to focus, persevere, be confident in eventual success, and position her body so energy can flow freely and efficiently. All children have strengths and weaknesses. When knowledge is transferred from areas of strength to bolster areas of weakness, confidence can be developed that is applicable to all areas of life.