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Capstone School creates dynamic, nurturing learning environment

The school’s progressive model prioritises learning rather than teaching

Learners garden with The Capstone School's principal, Jacqui Zeelie.
Learners garden with The Capstone School's principal, Jacqui Zeelie.
Image: Supplied/The Capstone School

Imagine doing your own “hunting” and “gathering” in the garden after studying the indigenous San people, SA’s first hunter-gatherers. Or finding acute and obtuse angles around the school grounds for your morning geometry lesson. This explorative, nature-inspired, learner-centred education is the focus of The Capstone School, a Reggio Emilia-inspired progressive school. Situated in two grand, charming homes, in the upper avenues of Walmer, Gqeberha, the school caters for learners aged three to grade 7.

Principal Jacqui Zeelie and her team of educators create a learning environment that stimulates exploration, problem-solving, co-operation, creativity and critical thinking. The Capstone School considers learning beyond the textbook as important. Children are encouraged to learn how to think, rather than what to think; to observe and question as they retain the wonder of learning. 

“Our teachers provide deliberate opportunities for critical thinking, observation and communication, which challenges learners to think deeply, creatively and dare to ask questions — not just accept everything at face value,” says Zeelie. 

The school follows a Caps-aligned curriculum, while upholding the tenets of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. This balance prepares learners to eventually transition seamlessly into local secondary-level education. The low learner-teacher ratio supports individualised nurturing, which is learner-centric rather than curriculum-driven. “Let’s teach the learner, not the curriculum,” says Joseph Chakonda, head of academics. The school’s model prioritises learning rather than teaching. 

The Reggio approach to learning venerates exploration and play, the arts and nature. As such, The Capstone School includes music, art, conservation and physical education as fundamental components of school life. Teachers collaborate to integrate learning wherever possible, drawing links between the languages and the arts, into social and natural sciences. “It is only in school that we work with such rigid subjects,” says Sara Thackwray, head of the intermediate phase. “In the rest of life, there is simply learning.” 

Since its founding in 1996 (known then as Children’s World Pre-School), the school has steadily built a reputation for the excellence of its programmes and its warm, inclusive school community. If it takes a village to raise a child, then The Capstone School prioritises being an integral part of that village. 

The school is built on an ethos of accountability, cultivating dynamic partnerships between the school, parents and teachers. This is not only as it pertains to academics, but developing children holistically. “Learners are taught what it is to be respectful, considerate human beings and make a difference in the environment they are in,” Zeelie says. Over the past 25 years, a number of the school’s alumni have been elected to top leadership positions and achieved top academic honours. 

For more information about The Capstone School, or to apply for admission, phone +27 (0) 41-581-1923, email admin@thecapstoneschool.co.za or visit the website.

This article was paid for by The Capstone School.


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