We often hear about communities, but what is a community?

The word can be used a little loosely. People talk about the fly fishing community, the horse racing community, and the expatriate community. The deeper sense of community, however, is not of a group of people who come together through their shared interests. A community includes people of all types who live together.

When a community works it tolerates people with different ideas, customs and beliefs. It finds a way to live peacefully together even when there is deep disagreement.

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This is the sense of community we are after at MBAT. We don’t necessarily have the same interests and ideas, but we get on together. We use the core principles of compassion and dialogue to learn effective ways of living together.

This is different from schools where the teachers step in whenever there is a problem. It may seem easier to have an adult float in from above and lay down the law, but that is a poor preparation for life. If you don’t learn to use your voice in the safe environment of school, you will have trouble raising it when you are in a situation that really matters.

We train our staff to let children speak. We want them to learn to sort out difficulties amongst themselves and not to be always looking for an adult. This is a better path to maturity and self-regulation. We start kids off when they are little talking through their problems and, by the time they get to Sama, our junior school, they can hold assemblies themselves and resolve complicated issues as a group. It is impressive what children can do for themselves when we give them the right environment in which to flourish.

Children know that in a meeting the chairperson decides who speaks, that you cannot talk off business, cross talk, or interrupt. They know how to frame proposals so that they make sense and they are quick to learn they cannot always get their own way. As they move into the upper and senior schools they learn how to set up committees to get things done, insist on accountability, look after a budget, and answer to their peers for decisions they make.

If everybody had this training, our public life would be more harmonious. We have all had the experience of bad meetings and lousy community decisions. It doesn’t have to be like that, when you know how.

Learning from Nature

Looking with curiosity

This school is all about Nature. When we were planning the school, we thought hard about the world we live in, the educational models that exist in the world, and what we wanted for the future.

We wanted a school that would work with children and their parents, not against them. We also wanted to prepare children as they grow up for an uncertain future.

The future has never been certain. But there are particular challenges right now. Climate change and technological advances are going to affect everyone. The question is: how do you prepare children to face this future?

What you learn at MBAT goes hand-in-hand with the way you learn it. The what includes a direct engagement with the natural world, both in the school’s farm and the sea. It starts with planting seeds and ends with hard science, but the impetus is the same. We have to learn to become good custodians of the Natural World by understanding it.

The how includes an idea about children’s personal developmental stories. We see that children are born into families. We feel it is unnatural to expect families to hand their children over to an educational system they are not engaged with. For this reason, parents and guardians are really important to MBAT: we want them to be engaged.

Growth and maturity come about as children become more and more independent of the loving hands that have guided them. We prepare children to grow into a world where they will have to make decisions for themselves by giving them the freedom to make choices about what they will do at school. They work in communities where they have to negotiate the problems that arise together. They don’t always look to the teacher for the solution.

We think that this is a wise choice of action for a school today. It ties in with the wisdom traditions of many cultures. It is also appropriate to the modern world which will look to people who are used to making decisions and judging evidence.

So, that is the start of the project. It is a seed planted in hope and expectation: that children raised in this school will grow up healthy in mind and body, prepared to face the changing world with all the force of their personality and experience.