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Opening Doors for Students, One Color at a Time

If you ask a SYV Family School parent what grade their child is in, you might see them pause and look up searching for the answer. That’s because at the SYVFS, by design, the multi-age classrooms are colored and not numbered. In just a few minutes on campus, you will pick up on the colorful array of doors that correspond with traditional classroom grades. 

To the right of the main entrance is Green Door that welcomes our youngest students for pre-school and emerging kindergarten preparation. On the upper campus, across the basketball court, you’ll spy the Blue Doors that represent our kindergarten and first grade students. Next to the music room, our Red Door classroom welcomes our second and third grade students; and on the deck by the main office, you will see Purple Door that leads to a lively classroom that houses our fourth and fifth grade students. 

Why Colors? 

In the early years of the school in the 1970s, only a handful of children comprised the student body, and ranged in ages. With so few students, the children learned in a group setting. This was the first multi-age classroom on campus, and students were referred to by the teachers as the “Olders” and the “Youngers”. 

Our long-time reading and Phono-Graphix teacher, Joanne Kresse, remembers the point at which the school had grown to a place where the teachers felt it was time to drop the Olders and Youngers designation, and divide the students into multi-age classrooms. Still modeling the curriculum after the Montessori tradition, the teachers each decided on the color to represent their “door” that was put in place to create their classroom. 

In the early days, parents assisted teachers in daily education, and when the student body reached the point of filling age-specific classrooms, parents elected to hire more teachers and aides. This move to faculty and staff brought about a more structured campus environment that was set up to grow as the years brought more and more students to campus from across the Santa Ynez Valley. 

The Gift Of Colors

As with everything that was implemented on campus and integrated into the curriculum, colors were a student-friendly way to group the children and also maintain the priorities of progressive education that formed a fun, natural, and inclusive environment. With the absence of grade levels, the teachers were free to move between the needs of the students. This allowed the older students to become tutors, teachers and leaders for younger students, and thereby instilling a sense of mentorship, leadership, and bonding between the ages. 

What’s Behind the Colored Doors? 

Green Door

Green Door is our preschool program that provides a positive and tactile learning experience through the precious early years of a student’s education at SYVFS. Time in the play yard includes water, sand, science and gardening for 2-3 years of the preschool curriculum. 

Blue Door

Blue Door becomes a natural segway to the upper campus for our Green Door “graduates” entering the kindergarten and first grade years. In the Blue Door classroom, students are introduced to more specific subjects like Phono-Graphix, reading, sharing, speaking, and writing as they build confidence as young academics.

Red Door

Our Red Door classroom sees the development of an older, more mature second and third grader who has a sense of responsibility to each other and also the younger grades. Red Door students are given an increase in independence within the classroom and on the yard, as they are also tasked with new “chores” and zones to care for around the school. 

Purple Door

Our Purple Door students enjoy a sense of maturity and status as they occupy the classroom on the “Purple Door deck”. Purple Door students realize privileges such as a dedicated buddy or buddies, learning how to access and use tablets and technology inside the classroom, and increased opportunities to practice leadership through their outdoor ed trips. Emphasis is placed on being positive examples of students who have matured through the foundations of the school’s values. 

Our classrooms foster connections amongst students beyond their grade level, as a collective student body. This allows them to develop strengths, and learn from each other as they grow into young, confident adults. 

If you would like to learn more about The SYV Family School, please visit and follow along to see what’s happening around campus on our IG @syvfamilyschool. 

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