It’s time to face the facts: school is boring. You sit there, watch the clock, and probably never end up taking the notes they want you to take, so you don’t remember half of it anyway. What’s the point if the system is so tedious students don’t actually learn? It’s not that they don’t want to learn, it’s just the way they’re taught doesn’t always work. But what if I told you that there are some unique schools in the world that are actually cool… really cool, in fact? Don’t believe me? Well, prepare to be amazed by these top ten cool schools where you’d never want to skip class.
10: Forest Kindergarten
If you’re the parent of a budding five-year-old, you’ve probably already realized that kindergarten has become the new first grade. Long recesses and learning through play are being replaced by six-hour days sitting at a desk. But at forest kindergarten, exploration sets the pace for learning rather than unrealistic academic goals.
Children eat, play, and even nap outdoors in all kinds of weather from sunshine to snow. If they want to climb a tree, they do. If they want to play in that puddle, they will. Teachers are there to keep kids safe and facilitate rather than lead the discovery.
It might sound like chaos, but building a shelter teaches teamwork and perseverance while fashioning toys and tools from woodland items fosters creativity as well strategy. Plus nature is full of math and science for early learners. How many snails are on that tree? Why do you think they want to eat these leaves more than those ones? The potential is endless.
9: Burgess Hill School
Burgess High School was essentially a social experiment run by the headmaster, James East. A Cambridge education had him convinced that children must first find themselves before they can or will actively delve themselves into their education. That’s why this private school in the sixties let students as young as twelve do pretty much anything they wanted.
Cigarettes were frequently passed around in classes. Boys tore through the campus on dirt bikes, with helmets being optional. There was even a dog who frequented the cafeteria looking for handouts. If they wanted to skip class, so what? They did.
The idea was that if you told kids not to do something it was just going to make them want to do it ten times more. By allowing them to experiment in a safe environment, kids would be more likely to come to their education on their own terms. Or get themselves killed jumping off a tree. Whatever came first. Unsurprisingly, this little experiment didn’t last. The school was eventually shut down.
8: Fuji Yochien
Open seems to be the theme for fun schools and Fuji Yochien is no different. It might not be as expansive as Mother Nature, but this Japanese kindergarten was created as one connected loop of classrooms. There are barely walls to keep out the elements.
The center of the ring is a courtyard for fostering creative and physical play. But perhaps the coolest feature of this school is the roof. Now that might sound like something any building should have, but Fuji Yochien takes things to a new level. The entire, donut-shaped roof is a precisely designed boardwalk playground. The uninterrupted loop offers students tons of room to run while being bare enough to encourage imaginative, cooperative play.
This philosophy of allowing kids to develop through play is carried into the fellow Japanese school, Dai-Ichi Yochien. This preschool’s courtyard was designed to collect rainwater into a giant, shallow puddle.
Imagine how cool that would make pirate games.
7: Green School
This school is the brainchild of John and Cynthia Hardy. They first conceived the idea for an off the grid learning center in 2006 and, with the goal of fostering generations of ecologically minded leaders, they wasted no time sculpting an amazing campus from the resources of the jungles of Indonesia.
It became clear when the school opened in 2008 that going completely off the grid while still maintaining the quality of education they were after wasn’t as feasible as they’d hoped. That said, the school is built almost entirely from renewable, locally sourced materials, including a 60 meter or nearly 200-foot long building made from bamboo.
The school boasts hydroelectric and solar power and teaches kids how to coexist with nature without losing the edge of technological advancements. Preschoolers up through high school students grow their own food while learning about things like environmental science, entrepreneurship, and the creative arts.
6: Makoko Floating School
Global warming is an alarming problem that can be challenging for certain populations. For the people of the water community of Makoko off the coast of Nigeria, a shift in sea levels has already begun to affect their homes.
So what does one do in the face of imminent disaster? They get creative. The Makoko Floating School was a project aimed not only to provide a public space for young and old people alike, but as a pilot project that could solve the issues of this exceptional community.
The floating structure boasted three levels and served many purposes from a school to a fish market and even a movie set at one point.
Unfortunately, it did collapse in 2016 due to lack of maintenance, but the idea of floating education isn’t new.
In fact, in Bangladesh, there are several types of boat and raft schools. They service children who might otherwise be isolated during the monsoon when practically the entire jungle is flooded for months on end.
5: Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy
The Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy is a school in Eagle County, Colorado with the exclusive privilege of calling itself the first public winter sports academy in the United States.
Students in 5th through 12th grade still learn everything they would at a regular middle or high school, but with flexible schedules that allow them to hone their snow skills. Any resident of the county is able to attend the academic half of the program for free. If you want the sports training, you have to pay a measly $7,500 per year. That might seem like a lot for skiing, but considering similar programs can cost as much as $25,000, $7,500 isn’t looking all that bad.
The program is for young people looking to compete in winter sports at national and even Olympic levels, so students can continue their education remotely when a practice or competition takes them away from school. It’s certainly not for everyone, but for those with a passion for winter sports.
4: LaGuardia High School
Okay, so you’ve got it all planned out. You’re going to be an actor or an actress or maybe even a director or a singer, something to do with the visual or performing arts. If you happen to live in New York City, then you don’t have to try and convince your parents to let you drop out of high school to achieve your dream.
LaGuardia High School is an amazing program and one of only nine specialized schools in the whole state funded by the New York Legislature. At LaGuardia, kids get the same education they would at any other high school, but there’s the added requirement of some sort of visual or performance-based major, basically.
Since the school is state-funded, it’s free to attend for NYC students. However, spots are limited and admission is based on an exceedingly competitive audition process. If you can get in, though, it’s one of the best visual and performing arts schools in at least the state, if not the whole country. Just look at the school’s alumni list and you’ll see that it’s a school experienced at creating stars.
3: All Female, Travelling School
Usually, students have to wait until college to enjoy the life-altering experience of a semester abroad, but the mission of the Traveling School is to give young women aged 15 to 18 a chance to see the world and grow into culturally sensitive, globally aware leaders.
The school has a 4 to 1 student, teacher ratio, and accepts only sixteen students at a time. These lucky few will travel with four full-time teachers to another country and live there for the next fifteen weeks. While that can be a huge deal for some 15-year-olds or even your average 18-year-old, the girls get to experience things most of us can only dream of, visiting places like Africa and India.
They go out, explore, and immerse themselves in the culture, but this experience of a lifetime isn’t exactly free. This exclusive program costs somewhere around $27,000 and that can definitely cut out students in less fortunate financial situations even with the fact that financial aid is available for those who qualify.
2: Witch School
Just don’t expect to learn how to levitate a feather. This school adopts a Pagan based learning program with mostly online classes. It has two real-life in-person campuses in Chicago, Illinois and, get this, Salem, Massachusetts. Now, as you can imagine, the school has faced its fair share of controversy and resistance from the general public, but come on, you can take classes on Wiccan and Pagan philosophies, actual magical traditions, and gain a better understanding of the religions themselves.
It might not be learning how to transform your body into a tabby cat and you’re probably not going to be sending any letters out on the leg of an owl, but you’ve got to admit, Witch School is pretty cool.
1: John Ball Zoo School
The John Ball Zoo Garden is a wildlife sanctuary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Despite a rocky political history, the park is now a thriving tourist attraction. It’s a safe place to land for animals of all kinds from wallabies to the largest alligator outside of Florida. It even has a komodo dragon named Precious.
Cool animals aside, what puts this park at number one in this list is the fact that it’s also a school. Every year, sixty, sixth graders from the district get the opportunity to actually go to school there. Not only do these kids receive all the normal parts of education, they also get to go to specialized classes.
But they don’t just listen to some zoologist’s spiel. This school offers hands-on learning experiences in various fields of zoology. They get to take care of and even touch animals some of us will never see in person, let alone handle. It’s a once in a lifetime experience aimed at creating a new generation of animal protectors.
Which school do you wish you went to? Or maybe you’d like to send your kid to one? Let me know in the comments section down below.