Students work in the glen


Growing Lifelong Learners Since 1972

Our Approach

Child-centered, Hands-on, and Inquiry-based

Our approach is child-centered, hands-on, and inquiry-based.

We believe that children come to school already immersed in their own learning and with their own strengths and interests. Inherent in our approach is a respect for children's curiosity, for their need to develop independence and self-confidence as learners, and for their eagerness to learn and master new skills.

Daily life in the classroom reflects a respect for a child's need to move, converse, and be active. Daily work is generally process-oriented, rather than product-oriented, reflecting our belief that real learning happens during the collection, analysis, and synthesis of information.

Our teachers guide children in asking and answering questions, pursuing information, and solving problems, rather than simply collecting isolated facts for their own sake. We encourage children to think for themselves and to develop their own unique voices.

Integrated, Thematic Curriculum

Our integrated curriculum is based on thematic units. Themes are rich and broad enough to incorporate work in language, literature, math, science, social studies, music, and art. When subjects overlap and inform each other in this way, learning gains vitality, depth, and relevance. Children are able to explore a subject deeply, from different angles and points of view. Read more about our integrated curriculum.


Our instruction is responsive to children's needs. We firmly believe that children learn best when they are developmentally ready to do so. We recognize and respect that some learners may acquire skills earlier than the “targeted” age, and some students take longer to master those skills. Our teachers are keen observers and listeners. They recognize individual readiness and introduce relevant skills and information at appropriate times.

Multi-age, Family Groupings

Our classrooms are multi-age, family groupings. Each class at Wingra spans two to three years of age. We have learned that small, mixed-age classes provide sustained personal contacts with teachers and peers that foster collaboration, a sense of community, responsibility, and deep friendships. We are committed to balancing individual and classroom community needs at each level.

Child Development Experts

Our teachers are highly knowledgeable in child development. They create developmentally appropriate curriculum, bringing their own creativity, insight, and love of learning into the classroom.

Our teachers have a clear understanding of the philosophy of the school and a strong commitment to it, despite the current nationwide pressures to conform to a preset curriculum and standardized testing. Working at a student-teacher ratio of 12:1 in teams of 3–4 fully certified teachers per level, they have the ability and opportunity to be remarkably effective. Their dedication, expertise, and teamwork are what make progressive teaching practices possible at Wingra.

Our students interact fully with their teachers. Teachers and students are on a first-name basis at Wingra. The informal learning environment and the building of trust gives the teachers greater insight into their students' understanding. Our teachers know that when students feel safe to be themselves, they are able to take risks in their learning, to challenge themselves, and to grow as people. Respect and serious learning are the result.

Our teachers are important role models. Students see their teachers work collaboratively with each other in teams. They see how their teachers approach problem-solving. They see their teachers themselves as lifelong learners, in the classroom and outside of it. Our teachers live the life they are teaching to their students.

Involved Parents

Our parents are involved. Connections are continually made between learning and home life, reflecting and supporting our belief that academic excellence is centered in the development of the whole child and is achieved in partnership with families. Parents are welcome at the school and play important roles in the school community.


Our school is connected to the community. We make regular use of the rich resources of Madison's libraries, museums, bus system, nature preserves, and performing arts centers, as well as institutions and businesses that welcome Wingra students into their laboratories, offices, and stores.

By the time a child leaves Wingra's senior class, he or she knows how to use our city's resources. Children are encouraged to be involved in community projects and are given the support they need to carry out such projects.

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Photo by Marieka Greene