Mission and Values



To provide a creative learning environment where students develop a deep sense of place and belonging and work to become engaged stewards of the natural world around them and active citizens within our community.



Our vision is to look beyond classroom walls. We believe that healthy communities are created by engaged, informed and compassionate citizens, and that children learn best when participating in authentic, hands-on learning experiences that are closely tied to the community. Through service, integrated curriculum and experiential learning, we provide opportunities for our students to actively build relationships locally, inspiring them to become catalysts of change in a global community.

The Cottonwood School Core Values


Values that guide teaching, learning, and decision-making at CSCS

Commitment to Place-based Education


We believe that children learn better when they can connect broad concepts to the place where they live. Place-based education creates and sustains healthy communities by fostering deep relationships between students and our natural and human environment. We build lasting relationships with community partners. We merge student learning goals with the goals of our partners as students work with local organizations and agencies to do real work and practice authentic civic engagement.


Deep, Authentic Learning


We foster student curiosity through authentic, inquiry-based projects in our community. Students learn to think critically and practice collaboration throughout their educational career at Cottonwood. We value the place-based learning approach, which is thematic, experiential, and multi-disciplinary, and incorporates many elements of both project-based and problem-based learning. We prioritize depth of learning over breadth. We dedicate ourselves to the professional growth of our educators and to moving from teacher-directed instruction to student-centered learning.


Educating the Whole Child


The Cottonwood School is an inclusive community that strives to foster a sense of belonging and significance in each individual. We nurture resilient human beings who are confident and capable problem solvers. Our community members take responsibility for themselves and each other through empathy and compassionate action. We partner with families to better serve the needs of the whole child.


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion


The Cottonwood School believes that the full education of a student depends and relies upon a diverse, equitable and inclusive school environment. We value different lived experiences and integrate the voices of our school-community members, while also inviting insight from our larger community. We apply a culturally responsive approach to our teaching and our decision-making. We incorporate the histories, perspectives, and experiences of different groups of people who are traditionally left out of school curricula.


Environmental Sustainability


The aim of place-based education is to sustain and improve the health of our environment, which includes both the natural world and the human community. Sustainability is a holistic and interdependent concept that is considered across the curriculum. We educate ourselves about the impact of humans on the earth and develop skills for tackling present and future challenges including climate change. We “walk our talk” by adopting and modeling sustainability practices in our classrooms, building, and habits.

Make a Donation to Help Further Place-Based Education!