Discover Phoenix: An Experience-Driven Learning Community for TK-8th Graders

Discover Phoenix: An Experience-Driven Learning Community for TK-8th Graders

Phoenix is an experience-driven learning community that focuses on equipping TK-8th graders with the tools, thoughts, and experiences to become their best selves and active contributors to society. At Phoenix, we believe that learning is everywhere, and we have created a curriculum that encourages creative growth, tenacity, and citizenship.

One of the unique features of Phoenix is our flexible, mixed-age environment that breaks down the traditional walls between school, home, and the community. Our curriculum is designed based on the principle that learning is incorporated into everything we do. We believe that children are instinctual learners and value their leadership and partnership in their educational path. Students are full partners in their own education, and parents are integral partners in their child’s education. Every child is known and understood by their teachers, making for a supportive and collaborative learning environment.

Our curriculum encourages engagement and challenges students to think critically, grow creatively, and be responsible citizens. We believe that children learn best when they are actively engaged in their education. Our community offers a range of educational experiences that foster the growth and development of young minds. Our students are known for their tenacity and leadership skills, which are nurtured through our curriculum.

If you are interested in learning more about Phoenix, we invite you to watch our fun resources. “Kindergarten @ The Phoenix School” was developed by a 3rd-grade student, and “A Year in the Life of a Phoenix Student” was developed by two of our students, in 6th & 7th grade. These videos offer a glimpse into our community and the type of learning experiences we provide.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about Phoenix. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a visit, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you and welcoming you to our experience-driven learning community.

Discovering Annaberg and Cinnamon Bay Snorkeling on our USVI Travel Study Trip – Day 2 Wednesday, March 22

Discovering Annaberg and Cinnamon Bay Snorkeling on our USVI Travel Study Trip – Day 2 Wednesday, March 22

We travel back in time today, walking in the footprints of Annaberg sugar plantation slaves.  From the moment we pass by the foundation ruins of slave huts, hovels too small to imagine anyone living there easily, we question history. We try to imagine hillsides covered with cane instead of dry tropical forest that we see today. Steep mountainsides rise above Annaberg windmill, with a horse mill at its base dominating the landscape. 

We conjure images of slaves cutting, stacking, and dragging heavy cane stalks down mountainside to the mill; backbreaking work 12 hours a day under burning sun. Slaves feed sugar cane through hungry rollers, sending juice along troughs to the boiling house where slaves stoke fires and skim boiling pots of cane juice until it is exactly right. From the last kettle to the drying rack, the process drains the life from the workers.  We try to understand WHY.  We know that intense labor is necessary for the plantation owners to profit, but as we look at history here at Annaberg from the slave’s perspective, it is difficult to understand being treated like an animal. We have deep discussions, sharing our questions and perspectives.  We even simulate being made to work the rollers on the horse mill by circling the center only 3 times, after which we are exhausted under the burning sun. It is unimaginable to think that slaves had to do just that, push a heavy pole around and around to turn the rollers for hours at a time.

To our delight, in the cook house, Miss Olivia is baking a traditional johnny cake and sharing her sorrel tea and mango juice. She is generous in making sure we all get to taste and drink to our heart’s content. Her little bake house even shelters us from the sporadic downpours that roll over from Tortola.

Mr. Charles invites us into his garden, gladly cracking coconuts for us to eat, cutting sugar cane to satisfy our sugar cravings, and letting us sample his horseradish.  Weldon, a Friends of the Virgin Islands volunteer, answers our questions about plantation working conditions and sugar production. History comes alive for us at Annaberg.

Our afternoon brings us our first snorkel.  If one were to ask Mike, Kyle, and Ella, they might say it is a bit like herding cats.  If one were to ask a Phoenix kid, exclamations of glee might be the most common response.  Some of us begin with mask and snorkel issues, fear of dying, being eaten by a marine critter, or drowning in deep water, but once we are in the groove, surrounded by flashing fish, curiosity and exhilaration of being in a coral reef world takes over. As we glide along like fish ourselves, we encounter a gracefully paddling Hawksbill sea turtle.  He meanders along, probably wondering what kind of school of creatures we are, underwater and shouting through our snorkels in our enthusiasm. It is surely a gift for us to see a sea turtle on our first snorkel adventure.

After a splash at the beach, just for fun, we head to dinner….grilled by our own Chef Kyle tonight.


Once it is totally dark, we join Ranger Naturalist, Mark, on our beach for a Sky Talk to learn about the stars above. The sky is brilliant tonight, twinkling its welcome and sending us to bed listening to the gentle surf as we drift off to sleep.


Discovering the Tropics: A Middle School Travel Study Program in St. John, USVI – Day 1: Tuesday, March 21

Discovering the Tropics: A Middle School Travel Study Program in St. John, USVI – Day 1: Tuesday, March 21

As we made maps to trace our journey from Boston to Atlanta and over the backbone of St. Thomas, we knew we were in for an adventure. We boarded the Redhook ferry, crossed rolling water with whitecaps waving at us all the way to Cruz Bay on St. John, and wound our way through switch-backing mountain roads to our final destination, Cinnamon Bay campground. But the true distance we covered today was even more incredible than we expected, and our long day left us feeling the tropical heat and basking in brilliant sunlight. Leaving cold Massachusetts behind was easy, and we’d been looking forward to this moment for weeks. Our journey was more than just a physical one; it was an educational travel experience that allowed us to explore different cultures and immerse ourselves in new environments.

“I buzz with excitement as I wait to start painting creatures, plants, and places flowing from my mind and onto the paper, the bright saturated colors warping and mixing as I go.  By the end of our tropic adventure, I will go home with the essence of St. John tucked in my backpack in a sketchbook.” – condensed from Aine’s journal


“After nine years of waiting, imagery floods my mind of Kindergarten me patiently listening to the 6-8’s experiences and memories made together and wondering, ‘When will it be my turn?’ Colored pencil portraits of VI marine life are seemingly jumping off my journal pages and into the water right before my eyes. I have a head full of knowledge from my research and a heart bubbling with anticipation. I feel more ready than ever to immerse myself in everything the VI has to offer.”  – condensed from Alice’s journal

“One clue after another, we get closer to finding our study trip destination. Finally, we guess St. John and, to our surprise, it’s confirmed. Instantly I am taken to a beach surrounded by stunning blue water with palm trees rustling in the wind mixed with the rhythmic crashing of waves creating soothing music on the shoreline.” – condensed from Arlo’s journal


“It’s going to be very enjoyable to be somewhere I have never been before. Snorkeling causes me to be scared of St. John’s wavy, blue ocean because I feel like the deep blue water will swallow me even though I have a life jacket on. This is going to be so exciting because it will introduce me to new things. I feel like I am going to explode.” – condensed from Aiden’s journal

“The adventures I might find in the Virgin Islands are unimaginable. Snorkeling excites me and as I see a sea turtle swim by me, I imagine that I’m touching its shell.” – condensed from Eziah’s journal


 “I assure myself my soul will be filled soon with St. John’s salty trade winds blowing wonder into my mind. I imagine splashing and flapping with flamboyant fish, encircled in their lively dance, a part of the Caribbean expanse.” – condensed from Karina D’s journal


“I’m incredibly excited for this trip.  It will be a whole new tropical experience; the views, refreshing trade winds, and a variety of small critters. Snorkeling will also be new. I’ve never been snorkeling before and I’m kind of nervous.  Fish are a little bit scary and I’ve only seen them from a distance. However, I am still excited for the trip. I made a lot of good memories last year, and I know there will be more memories that I make this year. – from Karina PZ’s journal

“As the plane bounces up and down, I can feel my anticipation building up.  I envision myself snorkeling in the crystal blue water of the VI, seeing the vibrant fish and plentiful corals, but something else tugs at my brain.  The scene shifts to the great house.  From the hill the view is magnificent. I want to stare at it all day.  With a sudden jolt, I am shattered back to the plane.  Now, just like the plane, I am bouncing up and down in my seat. I cannot wait.” – condensed from Max’s journal


“I’m feeling pretty worried about going to St. John because I never went on a plane before. I’m so pumped to see all the  colorful fish and birds, just watching the sunset, and writing about what I learned.” – condensed from Alfie’s journal


“My eyebrows raise, my lips grin with a giggly insecure feeling inside. I get to fly to tropical St. John. In my head I envision the smell of the beach, so salty, so exhilarating to dive in and enjoy the academic water experience. A proud feeling washes through my body as these patterned creatures prove my research correct, or maybe they’ll teach me I was wrong.” – condensed from Audrey’s journal

“Existing in the moment, I’ll notice the sound first, the sound of birds chirping and the ever warm water crawling onto the sand. A cool breeze flows against my face, whistling in my ears and through my ocean-curled hair. There’s so much more room for this island to grow in the garden that is my mind. It will be ever so rewarding to go.” – condensed from Fiona’s journal


“At the very thought of St. John’s rich and immersive history and ecosystem, I am filled with wonder. I can’t wait to see in person what I have spent so long researching, the sugar mill, coral, and animals alike. It is always terrifying to think about being away from home, but it is easily outweighed by my anticipation for the experiences to comes.” – condensed from Liam’s journal


Let the adventures begin!