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Progressive / Informal Program

The alternative progressive / informal program for K-5 students in the Upper Arlington Schools is offered at Barrington Elementary School and Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School. Students living in the Barrington attendance area may choose to enroll in the alternative progressive / informal program at Barrington at the time of registration. Wickliffe is a school of choice and does not have an attendance boundary as it offers the alternative progressive / informal program to students living in the Greensview, Tremont and Windermere attendance areas. 

The progressive / informal program was established in the Upper Arlington Schools in 1972 by a group of educators, parents and Ohio State University professors who were committed to a common educational philosophy reflected through the practices of progressive education. They believed an educator’s primary responsibility was to teach children how to learn and become responsible citizens in a democratic society.  

The roots of the program date back to the early 19th century and the work of educational philosophers and theorists like Froebel, Montessori, Dewey, Piaget and Vygotsky. Froebel demonstrated that play is the learning vehicle for the young child and that young children learn through play.  The work of Montessori alerted educators to the importance of materials and surroundings as a means for structuring the learning of young children. John Dewey, known as the “father of progressive education,” advocated for a reconfiguration of schools to be more like democratic communities. In his own lab school, Dewey recognized that learning occurs through experience and advocated for teachers to consider the children’s interest as well as developmental level.

While the progressive programs have adapted to changing state and national standards, they remain committed to the Ten Foundational Principles. They foster family-like relationships among children, parents/guardians and teachers, with teachers and parents/guardians working together to coach, guide and support children through their learning. Our classrooms remain trusting, positive and respectful places where teachers and children journey together - a journey filled with joy and wonder, in a quest for knowledge.

Ten Foundational Principles of Progressive Education

We believe schools are essential to a democratic society.


  1. We create a community for teaching and learning for all ages.

  2. We raise social consciousness by encouraging the school community to examine and act upon complex issues within a democratic society.

  3. We respect diversity among children and variation in their development.

  4. We collaborate with colleagues and parents as co-educators to meet children’s needs.

  5. We engage in thematic studies and foster authentic and emergent learning experiences.

  6. We structure experiences that actively engage children in the process of learning and guide child choice and decision-making.

  7. We design opportunities to integrate the arts in curriculum as an essential way to acquire and express knowledge.

  8. We use time and space in a flexible manner.

  9. We facilitate ongoing reflection and self-evaluation by children and adults.

  10. We use learning groups and documentation to support and deepen learning.

Revised 2013