Building a community comes invariably from a collective dream. It is about the drives that transform and come true according to people's accomplishments, their wishes and their strength. The Cerejeiras Learning Community is not an exception to this. There was this belief, from the very outset, that it is indeed possible to find alternatives, in the development and lives of children, more in touch with both human nature and the natural evolution of things. Bearing this in mind, we drew from the work of some pedagogical movements that already had experimental and solid science-based pedagogical work experience. We wanted to support our dream on stronger foundations in order to make it grow.
Our approach follows the teachings, principles and work matrix of the Freinet Modern School movement, in building a truly democratic and cooperative education. In this sense, the child has a real participation in the management of the whole community, in planning and managing their learning, namely the curricula to be explored throughout the school year.
The curricula is worked on from the beginning with the children and their contents are always presented and discussed with everyone as to respect their interests and needs, as well as to accommodate other aspects they may find relevant, individually or as a group, and are not in the Portuguese Ministry of Education Elementary School curricula. These contents, having been negotiated beforehand with the child, are explored throughout the school year, following an activity plan that includes moments of individual autonomous work, collective work, experiencing different types of materials and learning strategies (Montessori, imaginative play, games and challenges, nature and forest school, or by suggesting other group activities). These activities are always planned with the group in separate moments throughout the week, namely in the Collaborative Education Council at the end of each school week and at the beginning of each school day.
Weekly, all children can plan and negotiate their activities with the tutor team and register them in their IWP (Individual Work Plan) In short, “all activities depend on the student's direct engagement in active negotiation and debate.” (Niza, 2012, p. 365; our translation).
Throughout the week, children experience learning and knowledge acquisition in different ways.
Based on the MEM methodology, these moments are described as the five ‘learning moments’
Activities are undertaken individually, in partnerships or small groups, or together as a single group and organized by the Weekly Plan (WP). The WP is a flexible and dynamic timetable that constantly evolves as it responds to the shifting and expanding needs, interests and offerings of community members.
"Being a teacher nowadays is to be focused on listening, caring, managing experiences and affections, effective cooperation, understanding of the others and their contexts and needs, proactivity, the capacity for permanent reflection and action, in the will to learn ... This is the foundation that reveals a good and fundamental human and scientific sustainability."
Pedro Branco, Pedagogical consultant at Cerejeiras