Extra Credit 
Tuesday, August 22, 2000; Page A08
In this age of experimentation in education, staff writer Valerie Strauss has found some offbeat schools--old and new-- offering unusual programs:

There's more than reading, writing and arithmetic going on here; Garehime students are part of a microsociety, running their own bank with its own currency, a postal service, a court system, an elected government and small businesses. Children complete real business permits and do design, production, marketing and other entrepreneurial tasks. The idea is to help the youngsters learn what it means to be responsible citizens in a democracy. The school opened in fall 1998 and educates nearly 1,200 from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, with a program based on modern brain research supporting the notion that there are various forms of intelligence. Students stay with the same teacher for more than a year and are often in classes with children of different ages, which school officials say allows for cooperative learning and cross-age tutoring.
In the middle of urban Dallas, this private school for children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade has a barn from which older students run a for-profit egg company that teaches them about economics, politics, farming and business. It is called the Lamplighter Layers. Fourth-graders elect peers to corporate offices and serve each week as crew members responsible for the care of chickens and the collection and selling of eggs. The corporation holds meetings following Robert's Rules of Order and issues dividend-earning stock. Third-graders learn corporate concepts and help order the chicks. Founded in 1953 in a farmhouse, the school has a wide-ranging curriculum and has been designated a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.
A fine arts boarding high school that draws many students from Maryland and Virginia, Interlochen emphasizes artistic and academic achievement and arts presentation. About 10 percent of the members of the major symphony orchestras in the United States are Interlochen alumni, and the school, which has about 430 students, has produced 29 Presidential Scholars in the Arts, more than any other high school. There are, of course, students interested in other professions, and there is a strong academic program that goes along with the offerings in music, theater, dance, visual arts and creative writing.
All nursery schools take their young charges outdoors every now and then, but here the students practically live outside. The Outdoor Nursery School has been operating for 67 years out of a rambling old Victorian house designated as a national historic site, for about 65 children ages 2 1/2 to 5. Everything that other schools do indoors--reading, painting, science projects--is done outside. The school's philosophy is that children are better off outdoors using their bodies to explore the world around them. The school was founded in the Depression, at a time when the notion that youngsters should spend time away from their parents socializing with other kids was novel. Today, graduates of the school are sending their children--and grandchildren--here.
The nation's first totally online high school, this is an experimental state-funded project based in Orlando and open to all Florida students--free of charge, for now. The school offers a range of courses, including business computer technology, computer education, foreign languages, language arts, math, science and social studies. Most of the state's school districts are affiliated with the electronic high school, meaning they accept FHS credits. The school, now serving a few thousand students, is aimed at students who need a different learning environment, want to accelerate their schooling, need to make up credits to graduate on schedule or want to take a course not offered in their own school. The state has funded the project for a few years, but the school will soon have to find new resources. Other states have inquired about how Florida did it so they can try, too.
This is the nation's first charter school focused on management careers in the hotel and restaurant industries. Located between the White House and the Capitol, the year-old school offers a comprehensive high school/college preparatory curriculum but keeps its focus on allowing students to explore the hospitality industry. Paid internships are key, and each of the 135 students is paired with a mentor from the industry; they meet weekly, and students shadow their mentors. Aspiring chef Daverem Anthony, who has been cooking at Planet Hollywood all summer, raved in an essay: "Students who attend this school have more enthusiasm than I have ever seen in a school before."
Bing is a school and a laboratory. Built in 1966 on the Stanford University campus, Bing allows college students to learn about child development (by taking courses taught there such as Psychology 146, Observation of Children) and faculty and graduate students to conduct research (such as in developmental psycholinguistics and intrinsic motivation). Bing was built--with grants from the National Science Foundation and the Bing family--with children in mind: There are three spacious playrooms with a half-acre outdoor play area for each. (One holds a redwood grove.) About 400 children, from ages 2 to 6, attend. They spend much of their time choosing from a range of activities with teachers serving as facilitators.

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