A new school of thought

Nearly fifteen years ago, Suzy Amis Cameron called her sister Rebecca with a dilemma: she couldn’t find the right school for her young daughter.

She wanted an innovative curriculum, focused on sustainability and individually tailored to students’ needs, helping them develop a passion to learn.

“She couldn’t find a school like that where she lived in California,” says Rebecca Amis. “So she asked me to start one with her, because I have a background in early childhood development. I said no multiple times, but she persisted, and that’s how MUSE was born.”

Rebecca Amis, Suzy Amis Cameron, and her husband, director James Cameron, founded the first MUSE Global school in 2006, working exclusively with early childhood students for several years before expanding their efforts to include middle and high schoolers.

little boy tends to garden MUSE currently operates two California-based schools, with over 150 on-site garden beds. (Photo: MUSE Global)

Recently, they’ve decided to offer franchise opportunities.

“People from Vienna, Paris, China, and domestically in the United States, kept asking us how they could bring our model there,” says Jeff King, president of MUSE, as well as Rebecca’s husband.

He started working with the school in 2013 when they expanded to include older students.

MUSE currently operates two California-based schools, with over 150 on-site garden beds. Students participate in a seed-to-table program and watch vegetables they grow end up as part of their lunch.

“We have one student who has been an avid gardener for years; she started here when she was in third grade,” Rebecca says. “For one of her individual passion projects, she’s building a garden bed in the shape of [number] 17, symbolic of the 17 students shot in Florida last February."

"So, inside each bed will be seventeen different kinds of plants, all different shades of the color orange. That’s one of their school colors. It’s amazing to watch the students come up with ideas like this on their own.”

MUSE schools are zero percent net waste, with compost ending up in the garden beds that produce forty to eighty percent of what students eat each week.

“We also have solar panels, so kids grow up seeing that as normal,” King says. “We introduce sustainability as a core principle early on, and math and science are also integrated into that."

"The other day I was watching fourth graders planting sprouts and their teacher was talking about the math involved in spacing the plants as well as the components of the compost and where it came from, and they’re seeing that first-hand.”

two sister hug outside solar panel Rebecca Amis (right) and Suzy Amis Cameron (left), along with husband James Cameron, founded the first MUSE Global school in 2006. (Photo: MUSE Global)

The school’s approach also utilizes research showing how children best learn, which goes against a focus on testing.

“Cutting-edge science shows us that sitting down and regurgitating material isn’t what’s best for the brain and body,” King says. “It doesn’t create a love of learning, and instilling that desire is key. That comes from finding students’ individual passions, and weaving academic content around that.”

Students’ diets at MUSE are completely plant-based and meat-free, something that was controversial with some parents when it was initially introduced several years back.

“We had some parents question the idea. They were really worried about the impact of kids not having animal protein at lunch. We decided to use the idea of “one meal a day” to teach parents and students about the positive environmental impact that one meal without meat can have each day,” Jeff says.

“The community came to accept it, and we saw it as a change we really had to make to be an environmental school.”

On average, one person eating one plant-based meal a day saves 194,667 gallons of water and 772 pounds of carbon emissions annually.

MUSE students also learn about how their food choices impact the planet from a young age.

“Two-year-olds go home and ask their parents, ‘Why don’t we have a compost?’ and we love seeing that,” Rebecca says. “I like to think of it like the idea of a digital native. We are raising a generation that just sees sustainability as a way of life.”

little girl bites into sandwich Students’ diets at MUSE are completely plant-based and meat-free. (Photo: MUSE Global)

Many individual student projects integrate environmental responsibility into their design.

“I met with a student this morning who’s repurposing plastic from the oceans into a business selling clothing,” King says. “And so far all of our graduates have been accepted into their college of choice, so our program is also successful by traditional metrics.”

In the future, the Camerons and the entire staff of MUSE Global hope that more children can experience their passion-based learning model in a sustainable, plant-based environment.

“MUSE began because I wanted a genuine educational experience for my children that nurtured their passions and truly engaged their curiosities,” says Suzy Amis Cameron, cofounder of MUSE Global.

“With my sister Rebecca’s help, we have been able to cultivate and deliver a truly unique experience that focuses on the child, the community, and the planet. We’ve always dreamed of offering this amazing program to children around the world, and now we can through our franchise opportunities.”

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Inspiring and preparing students to live consciously with themselves, one another, and the planet.

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