Kids, teachers and parents rule at Little Lake Free School

. April 25, 2013.

What distinguishes Little Lake Preschool is the idea of teaching the meaning of "Democracy" to children at a young age.When kids head back to school this fall, they might not be sitting at desks and listening to lectures. Students at Little Lake Free School can choose activities that interest them – whether that means reading about animals or observing them – and develop a curriculum
alongside their peers, staff and parents.

The idea of a more collaborative environment motivated co-owner Melissa Palma to leave her teaching job at the Detroit Public Schools and start her own. She learned about Democratic Free Schools, earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work and then stopped to raise her children. When her eldest child reached school age, she searched for a school that focused “on children’s social and emotional well-being as well as the academics. My children were my reason for slowing down my professional dream of starting a school, but now they are the perfect catalyst for making
that dream happen.”

A year ago she asked fellow educators, friends and community members to start Little Lake Free School.

What distinguishes the school,Palma says, is “the idea of children, at a young age, learning what democracy really is. They are learning that you can make decisions that are best for the community and not just the individual. I am excited for my children to learn those skills in a community setting and an educational setting. Our goal is also to get equal participation and voice from the students, staff and parents.”

The school plans class projects, fi eld trips, apprenticeships, and an extended community service project. They might also “bring in artists and scientists to teach classes, or invite professionals to do their work for an extended time and answer questions. It depends on what the
group decides.”

Classes start Tuesday, September 7 at the Episcopal Church of Incarnation (ECI), 3257 Lohr Rd, Ann Arbor. Children ages 4 to 12 can enroll, and the school plans to “grow and include kids up to 18 years old over the next couple years.”

* SUMMER EVENTS AT THE ECI LOCATION INCLUDE: Open House: August 14, 1 – 3 pm. Come see the school and talk with staff, parents and
students who have already enrolled. Please RSVP to for all events.

To learn more about Little Lake Free School at ECI, 734.218.4877/