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The Cottonwood Story

The original Cottonwood School can be found in eastern Montana, 20 miles from the closest town of Ismay.  Although no longer an active school, the building still stands isolated on the plain.  It is the one room schoolhouse where Sara’s grandmother taught in the 1930s.  

Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Sara founded a preschool co op in her Brooklyn living room in 2014.  The living room school became a laboratory for Chris’s architectural thesis: The Walking School: A Peripatetic Model for Education.

A mixed-age learning environment rooted in curiosity, discovery and play attracted a crowd and Sara went on to partner with New York City’s Agile Learning Center to develop and pilot an early learning environment using adapted agile tools.  The pilot was a success and the Brooklyn micro-school found a permanent home and doubled in size two consecutive years.

Having aligned their passions in education, architecture, and community building Sara and Chris founded Montana’s first Agile Learning Center and Helena’s first progressive independent school for students of all ages.

Cottonwood ALC takes inspiration from the one room schoolhouse and also the journey required to get there.  Each day we engage directly with the world around us.  We travel between our schoolhouse and the parks, libraries, homes, and businesses of the community.  Acknowledging that learning happens everywhere, Cottonwood students can be found in the public library, running a local pop up shop, exploring Mount Helena, visiting our elected officials at the Capital, or volunteering in the community.