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Living Wisdom alternative learning high school to open at Cubberley

Students interested in alternative learning will now have the opportunity to apply to the new, private Living Wisdom High School located at the Cubberley Community Center in Palo Alto. In their applications, prospective students will answer questions focused on extracurricular interests and personal qualities. They will be evaluated on these questions in lieu of grades and test scores.

Until its first semester in fall, Living Wisdom will accept applications from students interested in alternative learning. Classes will incorporate activities such as daily mindfulness meditation, yoga and camping trips into their curricular while also providing core  academic courses.

Living Wisdom, which already operates a kindergarten-through-eighth grade school in Palo Alto, seeks to “find a way of working with children that would be balanced and really achieve high results mentally, emotionally, socially, academically, and spiritually,” according to Living Wisdom Principal Kabir MacDow.

The new high school will fulfill the University of California and California State University A-G requirements, and will abide by the Common Core curriculum. According to the Living Wisdom website, the school functions as an “alternative learning” school through the personalized learning that “provides real-world experience through volunteering, internships, in-depth study… resulting in a meaningful, adventure-filled, journey of self-discovery.”

Living Wisdom schools were first created in the early seventies in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. The program  was originally established by Ananda, a spiritual community. However, in the 1990s, the schools adopted a different philosophy and became less affiliated with the organization. MacDow came to Living Wisdom in 1977, and was a teacher at the Sierra Nevada site for eight years. Since then, Living Wisdom has expanded into multiple sites, including Seattle, Portland and Nevada City.

MacDow explained that personalized learning can only be accomplished with small class sizes. As a result, Living Wisdom will only accept 15 to 20 students in the fall.

In an earlier interview with Palo Alto Online, MacDow stated that he hopes for 80 to 100 students in the fourth year of the school’s existence, as well as a more permanent location.

Living Wisdom will not only focus on the core subjects of math, science, language arts and social studies, but also students’  strengths and passions. Living Wisdom offers a Personal Certification Program, which encourages students to research a subject of their liking, put together presentations and teach his or her peers about the subject.

“[The Personal Certification Program] would be individually inspired and driven, with the support of our team,” MacDow said. “In an aspect of this, some service comes out of it.”

MacDow expressed that the core tenet of the Living Wisdom philosophy is to put the individual student first. Other factors that help achieve this balance is the student’s happiness, importance of academics, self-discovery and a common Living Wisdom motto, “Education For Life.”

“[Education for Life] is another important aspect of what we offer,” MacDow said. “It is about developing that awareness about other people and engaging with life.”

“When you put those four elements together, you have a program that addresses not just students, but real people.” MacDow said. “You’re addressing the need that all of us have to grow.”

Tuition is $29,850 per year with a $1,500 enrollment fee. Living Wisdom also provides financial aid for those who qualify for it.

For those who want to learn more about Living Wisdom High School, there will be an open house and informational session on February 11 at 8 a.m. in rooms B4 and B5 of the Cubberley Community Center.

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