About Us

Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley is a Public Charter school for grades K-8 in the Petaluma school district. Our school calendar is a modified 45-15 schedule with three week breaks in both Fall and Spring.To accomplish our mission and insure the success of our educational program, instructional practices include but are not limited to: constructivist lesson design, lesson planning “with the end in mind”, developmentally appropriate learning tasks, addressing multiple intelligences, criterion-referenced student projects, the development of authentic learning tasks for authentic purposes, and creating a community of readers and writers.The educational program is organized into two hubs, Visual & Performing Arts and Environmental Education. These two learning hubs provide students with project based experiences in an integrated core curriculum throughout the Year-Round School Calendar (39k). Studying cycles in the garden, restoring our Nature Trail, cooking in our fabulous kitchen, learning the tools, techniques and histories of influential artists, connecting dance to literacy and collaborating to put on fantastic plays are just some of the ways you may catch our students at work. Rather than being in age-segregated groups, students work together across curriculum with other students of all ages. Classrooms are multi-age and are arranged in a cluster environment to support the cooperative teaching environment.

Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley has its academic roots in a constructivist approach to learning. In Constructivism the emphasis is placed on the learner or the student, rather than the teacher or the instructor. Learning is also affected by the context and the beliefs and attitudes of the learner. Learners are encouraged to invent their own solutions and to try out ideas and hypotheses. They are given the opportunity to build on prior knowledge. Learner autonomy and initiative is accepted and encouraged.

Our Mission

The purpose of education is to help students develop the best that is in them. Part of that is an appreciation of who they are as well as a respect for differences and diversity. I hope that students will leave the process of education more curious than when they entered it. This curiosity about life would give students a sense of competence and confidence that comes from years of learning creative problem-solving and thinking skills. This confidence would impel students to satisfy their curiosity to be willing to be responsible for others within the society to make it better for all.

Mary Collins
Principal of Cherry Valley School (1974 – 1984)

Our Tenets

  • We believe that meaningful learning occurs when students construct their own knowledge for authentic purposes.
  • We believe that children need a variety of learning experiences and a safe community in order to take risks and move along their individual developmental continua.
  • We believe that children learn from and are inspired by their environment in the natural world.
  • We believe that children learn reading best through authentic uses of language: listening, speaking, reflecting, viewing, and writing.
  • We believe that students can demonstrate evidence of academic growth in a variety of ways. Teachers and students use multiple measures and reflection to guide further learning.
  • We believe that students will interact responsibly and compassionately as members of a diverse world when they are encouraged to think critically. We cultivate students’ ability to think critically and act toward social justice.
  • We believe in multi-age classrooms to support both academic and social growth of our students.
  • We expect that all members of our community will engage in direct, honest, and respectful communication.