Alpha Alternative School, one of the oldest alternative schools in Canada, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. It seemed like a good time to take a look at the lives of some of its earliest students, in order to get a sense of the long-term effects of this radical experiment in cooperative education. ALPHA — A Lot of Parents Hoping for an Alternative—was unique in the Toronto public school system when it was founded in 1972. There was no homework, no grades, and no tests. It was taken for granted that children do much of their learning through play. Students explored their own interests, beginning organically with something they wanted to learn about or something they wanted to make or do, and enlisting the support of their teachers and friends in finding the answers to their questions … ALPHA was a glorious countercultural experiment devised in an age of hopeful ingenuity and fueled by a desire for freedom. Remarkably, in spite of the many changes that have taken place in the world since ALPHA’s founding forty years ago, the school is still here, not just surviving, but thriving.

— Ariel Fielding, Alpha Alternative School 1972/2012

The ALPHA project was the first in an ongoing series of collaborative documentary projects about alternative education with performing arts producer, documentarian, and applied ethnomusicologist Ariel Fielding. You can read the ALPHA interviews on the project website: Notes from the Field.