At Manzanita, we practice Symbiotic Learning. We spend considerable time in the outdoor classroom of wild chaparral, oak glen, and geologic rock canyons. A symbiotic approach states that academic subjects are dependent on one another, and knowledge must be cross-disciplinary to be lasting and resonant for our youth. Subjects that have traditionally been viewed as nonacademic, such as visual art, dance, and music, are framed by scientific and mathematical law. In the same way, creativity is central to human innovation in all fields of study. Symbiotic Learning begins with experiential engagement. We then examine the questions inspired by that experience, considering mathematical, historic, and aesthetic components. Photosynthesis for example, is not studied as an isolated chemical process, but as a dynamic evolutionary interaction between solar energy, heat storage, food consumption, and the needs of warm-blooded animals. The experiential process for understanding photosynthesis may begin by planting a garden or eating a salad. Our approach is informed by the field of Human Ecology, the interdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments.
Please visit the Curriculum page for more information on Symbiotic Learning



A mentoring model of learning understands that the relationship of care and trust between teacher and student is central to all learning, and that nature is the most compelling arena to awaken this kind of learning. An adult who mentors a young person learns the power of questioning over telling. A mentor knows the ‘edge’ of a student’s knowledge base at any given time and in any given area, and inspires the student to fearlessly move past that edge under a watchful gaze and through this gift of questioning. Curiosity is leveraged in this process, and a natural drive to track new ideas and hidden knowledge across a range of disciplines is sparked by the teacher. This is the ancient art of mentoring. 



Over the course of their studies, and through the range of their experiences at Manzanita School, students will come to answer three central questions about themselves:

1. Where have I come from? 2. Who am I? 3. Where am I going?

Adolescents are predisposed to engage in a deep questioning, and this important inquiry is critical and timely. Each of these questions is answered through three lenses: biological, cultural, and aesthetic. For example, the question of “Where have I come from?” is understood from an evolutionary (biologic), socio-historical (cultural), and numinous (aesthetic) perspective. At Manzanita, all learning, all fields of inquiry, and all course content is built around the exploration of these three central questions. Informing the learning ecology at our school, these questions compel students to build a personal narrative that is framed against a storyline for humanity, and which is pragmatic while also offering a sense of opportunity and optimism for their lives. For a more detailed discussion of our approach to learning, please visit the Curriculum tab above.

Downloadable Resource Library

The library provides downloadable content to support and expand on the information contained on this page.