One of the trailblazers of alternative education methods was the Toronto ALPHA Alternative School that opened its doors in 1972.
The acronym comes from ‘A Lot of Parents Hoping for an Alternative’, and they banished many of the traditional markings of school – insisting that their children not be given any homework, tests or grades.
Instead, they were taught in individual or small group sessions, both with children their own age but also much older students.
Express yourself: The ALPHA Alternative School first opened its doors to an elementary class in 1972 and they chose not to give students any grades, homework or tests
|Then and now: Maggie Marelli attended the school from the age of four to 12. She studied fine art as a mature student after dropping out of high school and works in home improvement. Mrs Marelli fondly remembered the parents who taught them cooking, sewing, carpentry and singing. She said: ‘At my mainstream high school I was quite shocked by the students v teachers mentality, which seemed like such a barrier to learning’|
|Putting things together panned out: Jamie Leonard studied journalism and works in information technology support, but spends his free time riding and writing about motorcycles. He said ALPHA made him fearless, joking: ‘ I even order the soup of the day without asking what it is. That’s the kind of nonconformist rebel that ALPHA made of me. That and often wearing mismatched socks’|
‘Multi-age grouping cultivates a cooperative learning environment where peers learn from one another and look after one another,’ the school’s website claims.
It comes as little surprise that much of the lessons were based around more creative concepts, like photography and the construction of snow sculptures.
Now, as part of an anniversary project, photographer Michael Barker took photos of some members of the inaugural class.