At Chicago Free School, our curriculum reflects our values of choice, voice, community, inclusion, and exploration. We want to instill a lifelong love of learning and create space to learn autonomy and democratic decision-making in a number of distinctive ways. Here are just a few of the unique learning opportunities we offer.


Each year, we offer a wide variety of afternoon elective classes for all but the very youngest students. Some we offer every year, while others are suggested and even co-led by the students themselves. Electives are held Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday afternoons for students in Kindergarten and above and rotate about every 6 weeks.

(Some) past electives we’ve offered

  • Wood Crafts
  • Mathematical Art
  • Creative Writing and Contemporary Literature
  • Yoga
  • Spanish
  • Cooking
  • Music
  • Winning Words: Philosophy and Debate
  • Computer Programming
  • Ancient Egypt
  • Beading and Jewelry Making
  • Comic Art
  • And more! See a fuller list of past electives with descriptions here.

Field trips

At CFS, field trips aren’t just something we do once in a while; rather, experiential learning comprises a core part of our curriculum. Field trips may happen as often as once a week; some are walking distance, while others may be in various parts of Chicago accessible by CTA.

(Some) field trips we’ve taken

  • Museum of Science and Industry Innovation Studio
  • Weaving workshop at Chicago Cultural Center
  • Pottery workshop at Hyde Park Art Center
  • DuSable Museum of African-American History
  • Field Museum of Natural History
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Indiana Dunes State Park
  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Adler Planetarium
  • Ace Hardware
  • Parker’s Pets
  • Chicago History Center
  • Black Storytellers Festival
  • The Weaving Mill
  • Jackson Park/Wooded Isle
  • The Mitchell Museum of Native American Culture and History

Outdoor time

Playing is learning, and kids need to move their bodies and be in wide open spaces. As a school, we prioritize having substantial time outside every day, even on (most) winter days, for all ages. Students participate in daily supervised free play on the school playground or (for grades 1 and up) nearby park playgrounds, often multiple times per day.

Socio-emotional learning

Our curriculum emphasizes age-appropriate socio-emotional development, from our youngest 3-year-olds up through middle school. Students develop a vocabulary for expressing what they want, need and feel, learn about maintaining safe boundaries and consent, and are given the tools to problem-solve conflicts with their peers.

Class meeting and all-school meetings

Each class holds a class meeting daily.  In these meetings, we do community-building activities and games, share personal news, plan field trips together, and discuss upcoming events and elective classes.  We also problem-solve about how to make our classroom communities safe and harmonious.

In grades 1-8, students also use class meetings and whole-group council meetings as one option to help resolve conflicts. These meetings are led by a student who is elected to chair the meeting, and in them we learn firsthand about consensus-based decision making and community responsibility.


Makerspace is open for business after lunch as a hub of creativity. This indoor space is stocked with a variety of crafting tools and materials, including saws, hammers, hand-drills, hot glue guns, and sewing equipment. Students can design their own project or work on the “project of the day.” Projects have included building model houses, designing and building marble mazes, and binding books.