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Prospect School and Center for Research and Education Archives

Identifier: mss-001

Scope and Content Note

The Prospect Collection consists of files generated and assembled by staff members at the Prospect School and the Prospect Center for Education and Research, and artwork and other school projects created by students who attended the Prospect School. The materials published as The Reference Edition of the Prospect Archive, including documents, slides, and microfiche, are drawn from a larger body of original student works, including artwork in various media, writing projects, math assignments, and three-dimensional pieces; along with notes on, evaluations, and descriptions of students and their work. The Prospect Collection also contains curriculum records; documentations of classrooms and the School as a whole; academic and staff calendars; lists of staff, students, and students’ parents; alumni surveys; board of trustees and committee meeting minutes; financial records; correspondence; memoranda; accreditation, planning, and consulting reports; documentations of Prospect’s summer institutes and syllabi for higher education programs; external and internal publications, including brochures, programs, press releases, newsletters, newspapers, articles, books, and transcripts of oral presentations; property deeds and plans; facilities maintenance records; grant proposals and reports; scrapbooks; video recordings; and photographs.


  • 1964-2011
  • Majority of material found within 1965 - 1991



The Prospect Collection is open for research. Due to the sensitive nature of the student records it contains, all users are required to review and sign a Confidentiality, Access, and Reproduction Agreement prior to viewing any materials. Copies of the agreement are located in the first folder of every box.

For privacy reasons, all student names appearing on folder titles, as well as many appearing within the materials themselves, have been replaced with pseudonyms. Some teacher names have also been replaced with pseudonyms. The convention of parentheses around a name appearing in the collection indicates a pseudonym.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Administrative History

The Prospect School, an independent school for elementary and middle school children, operated from 1965 to 1991. The School was founded with intent to join it with the Bennington public schools. The founders, Joan B. Blake, Louis Carini, Patricia Carini and Marion Stroud – all well-versed in the philosophy of John Dewey, received a small start-up grant from the Bennington Cooperative Project for Curriculum Development (CPCD). A subsequent and much larger grant under the newly enacted Elementary and Secondary Act (Title III) provided funding for a school comparable in population and cost to public schools in the Bennington area, for consultation to the schools brought together by CPCD, and for research to be conducted at Prospect and the CPCD schools.

The School, which received initial accreditation from the state of Vermont in 1968, grew from a single multi-age classroom for five- and six-year-olds, to encompass a full elementary and middle school for children ages four to thirteen. It provided individualized, independent learning for children using multi-age classroom grouping and personalized teaching. The School’s daily schedule included large blocks of time for its students to work with a broad range of materials individually and together, in self-directed ways.

The Prospect School staff evolved an innovative methodology sometimes referred to as Prospect’s Descriptive Processes. The idea was that a school committed to observational, descriptive inquiry could itself generate knowledge of children’s growth and learning, of curriculum, and of learning and teaching. The first of these processes, the Descriptive Review of the Child, served as paradigm for the others that followed. To make sense of their observations of children, staff met weekly for conversations structured to explore the interests and capacities of a particular child in an effort to make visible the child’s ways of engaging the world. The aim was to fold insights gained from the Descriptive Reviews directly into practice. Two monographs (1975 and 1979) articulated the philosophical, methodological frame for the processes.

The Prospect School’s methodology became widely known and studied by educators across the United States. By the late 1960s, School staff began to offer formal professional development programs for educators and consulting services for educational institutions through a wing of Prospect designated the Adjunct Services. In that same period, the School was named a Demonstration School for the State of Vermont and through federal funding from the Education Professions Development Act (EPDA) initiated a state-approved, post-B.A. Teacher Certification Program. In 1979, the organization was reorganized and renamed as the Prospect Archive and Center for Education and Research, an umbrella encompassing the Prospect School, external services for educators and institutions, research projects, and the Prospect Archive of Children’s Work. The Center’s professional development programs included conferences for educators; intensive seminars and workshops, some conducted as part of degree-granting programs for several graduate schools in New England; and programs for visiting scholars held at Prospect School. The Center’s consulting services included professional development programs for the staff of educational institutions and research and documentation of school programs conducted within primary and secondary school settings. Prospect Center staff members, particularly Patricia Carini, published and spoke widely about the Prospect School’s methodology and the Center’s programs and services.

The Prospect Archive of Children’s Work contains the visual and written work left behind by more than sixty Prospect School students, as well as teacher records and additional work completed by some students before and after their years at the School and subsequently donated to the Archive. The Archive offers a longitudinal perspective on children’s thinking and growth. It was and continues to be used by teachers and other educators—employing methods for collaborative study developed at the Prospect Center—to further their understanding of individual children, of children in school, of what in the educational setting supports their learning, and ultimately, of larger questions about human work, thought, and capacity.

In 1985, the Prospect Center published The Reference Edition of the Prospect Archive, a compilation of work by and about thirty-six children who attended the Prospect School. In preparation for the publication, participants in the Center’s Archive Scholars/Fellows project of 1983-1985 each went through each item in the children’s collections, organized and numbered it chronologically, and, together with other participants, used Prospect’s Descriptive Processes to make additional collaborative inquiries into the work and the common and divergent threads between the children. The Reference Edition consists of the following components: (a) visual and written work by the children, reproduced in their entirety in black and white on microfiche and selectively in color slide format; (b) “catalogues” for each child, containing year-by-year summaries of the child’s original collection preceded by an overall summary, all prepared by Archive Scholars/Fellows working with the original material; and (c) “narrative records” for each child containing transcriptions of Prospect School teachers’ weekly notes and semi-annual reports to parents, plus, as available, notes of Descriptive Reviews about the child and his/her work. Archive Scholars/Fellows selected images to be reproduced as color slides in the Reference Edition to represent characteristic and exceptional themes, motifs, stylistic tendencies, and choices of media, through the duration of each child’s collection.


287 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Prospect School and Center for Education and Research Archives contains the archives of the Prospect School (1965-1991) and the Prospect Archive and Center for Education and Research (1979-2010). The largest portion of the collection is comprised of the Prospect Archive of Children’s Work, which consists of visual and written work produced by more than sixty children who attended Prospect School. The collection also includes records and publications documenting Prospect’s administration, curriculum, adult educational programs, and consulting projects. The approximately 284 linear feet of materials in the collection encompasses manuscripts, artwork, photographs, and films dating between 1964 and 2011.

System of Arrangement

The collection is arranged in four series: Prospect School and Center, containing materials related to both organizations (1964-2011); Prospect School, containing materials related specifically to the School (1965-1991); Prospect Center, containing materials related specifically to the Center (1967-2010); and the Prospect Archive of Children’s Work (1965-2010).


Silver Special Collections, Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Guide to the Prospect School and Center for Education and Research Collection
Finding aid prepared by Erica Donnis
February 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)