William Doyle was a Fulbright Scholar in Finland, and his child attended the local school. When Doyle returned to New Tork City, he went in search of a Finnish-style public school and found it. It is called The Earth School.

“My child now goes to PS 364, also known as the Earth School, a little-known gem of a public K-5 elementary in the East Village.

“The student population is some 50% black and Latino children. Half the students qualify for free and reduced priced lunch, and 23% of students receive special education services.

“If American teachers built a school, instead of politicians and bureaucrats, it would look a lot like this. Founded as an experimental program in 1992 by a group of New York City teachers who wanted, in the words of the school’s website, “to create a peaceful, nurturing place to stimulate learning in all realms of child development, intellectual, social, emotional and physical,” the Earth School is guided by the values of “hands-on exploration, an arts-rich curriculum, responsible stewardship of the Earth’s resources, harmonious resolution of conflict and parent-teacher partnership.”

“While “working rigorously in literacy and math” the students are encouraged “to explore, experiment, and even sometimes make a mess in the pursuit of learning.”

“The atmosphere of the school is one of warmth and safety. Teacher experience is prized here — the principal, Abbe Futterman, was one of the founding teachers of the school a quarter-century ago, and many other staff members have worked here for at least five or 10 years.

“Children at the school are assessed every day, not primarily by standardized tests — the majority of parents opt their kids out of state exams — but by certified, professional childhood educators who provide the ultimate in “personalized instruction”: the flesh-and-blood kind.

“Children at the school learn in part through play in the early years. They are encouraged to ask challenging questions and think for themselves. They are encouraged toto be creative and compassionate, and to make their own decisions. Children get unstructured, free-play outdoor recess in the big play yard most days.

“Like employees at Google who are given 20% of their time to devote to projects of their own choice, children are given a free afternoon every week to pursue their own self-chosen “passion projects.”

“In a striking innovation I especially appreciate, parents are actually invited into the school and directly into the classrooms for the morning drop-off, and given a room in the heart of the schoo, to relax, chat and plan much-needed school fundraisers.

“The school is not perfect, and it is not for everybody. If you’re looking for universal iPads, data walls, digital learning badges or boot-camp behavior modification in your child’s classroom, you won’t find them here.

“But somehow, this oasis of child-centered, evidence-based childhood education has managed to survive and flourish for a quarter-century in the heart of the New York City public school system.“

If it can happen in New York City, it can happen everywhere. If we ever get over our love affair with testing, anything is possible. Even a normal childhood.