Friday, May 5, 2017

Nueva School

The Nueva School has been open since 2014 and their first graduating class is about to graduate. Their impressive building makes a statement on the developing community in much the same way as does at Honsonville Point. I liked the seating and hire bikes outside the front door. The banners on the lamp post appealed as well and could be a neat way to feature our main entrance.

Getting through the front door provided some challenges for this country boy.
Once inside I was met with the memorabilia shop which could be something that we could think about.
I spent my hour and a half there walking around the school with their Admissions Officer, Davion.
The school is designed to meet the needs of gifted students. Davion was firm in the belief that their pedagogical approach was appropriate for any learner (I agree!) Their school seeks to inspire and challenge students, while equipping them with the academic foundations and social-emotional skills necessary to successfully navigate the transition to college life and beyond. Almost all of their students will be moving on to University. Universities have been telling them that too many students arrive without being able to write competently, having mental health issues (anxiety around schooling) and little resilience and self-regulation - hence their focus on social-emotional skills.

Design Thinking is at the core of their learning model:
I saw some students planning their Quest for next year (similar to our Impact Projects). They go through a structured and scaffolded approach to design thinking at the start of their Freshman Year. This reminds me to check that we are doing so with our Learning Model. Their first Quest spends a lot of time on the design thinking approach which I believe is similar to what we do with our Big Project model.

They run a 5 block day from 8 30 to 3 35. Advisories can meet from 8am to 8 30 or students can access teachers for support. The same is true at the end of lunch (12 50 to 1 20). During the 45 minute lunch break clubs occur or advisories can meet.

It's getting a bit repetitive but they are also driven by the need to personalise learning and for it to be as authentic as possible. I saw lots of evidence of students having multiple ways of evidencing their learning.

Apart from Quest, programmes are largely single-subject, or more accurately, single Learning Area (subjects from the same Learning Area sometimes combine). Their schedule is 8 courses 3 times per week. They choose one from Maths, one from History, Social Science and Civics, one from Lab Science, one from Literature and Communcations, one from Design Thinking, Engineering and Computer Science, one from Arts, one from World Languages and one from Additional Requirements (Quest, Athletics and Wellness, Interdisciplinary Studies, Science of Mind). Once they have met the coverage requirements of each (eg Maths 3 years, Arts 2 semesters in same subject, Interdisciplinary Studies 2 years) they are free to select from wherever and have free time.

Their MakerSpace area was cool (as ours is) and they have a permanent workshop manager based there who only teaches one class (3 blocks out of 24). George is available the rest of the time for students to call upon (prototyping is strongly present here). He had some cool machinery like these desk top things:

Learning Advisories were formed but had no set curriculum or, in fact, meeting times.

The highlight of my visit was an extended conversation with 2 students, Sophia and Celia (friends because their names rhyme). I asked them about things like wider student engagement, cyber bullying and misbehaviour. They responded by talking about being immersed in digital citizenship, about the dual elements of freedom and responsibility, how trust is infectious and the default response to an issue is to "solve a problem, find a solution" and described processes very similar to restorative practice.

What did I take away?

  • personalisation and authenticity, personalisation and authenticity, personalisation and authenticity!
  • Our Learning Design Model (including Project Learning Process) must always be to the front and continually scaffolded. In NZ, it is truly our point of difference
  • I have to find ways to access funds on a reasonably grand scale to increase our staffing resource. Nueva is a private school and generates funds to maintain smallish classes and positions such as Workshop Manager, Writing Support teacher (in response to messages from Universities) who is available 8 00 - 4 30 every day to critique, scaffold writing for any student, Maths Lab (anytime access to Maths support) and Peer Tutoring Co-ordinator (I think this was the writing Support teacher).

  • We run bloody good visits!
  • For a state school, taking all from our community (wouldn't have it any other way!), and trying to prudently manage resources, we are out there!
Now for a debrief with Daniel and Lisa, a long weekend and then off to San Diego to check out High Tech High.


Bruce Hammonds said...

I reckon you have broadened the concept of sabatical with your wide range of interests /activities - biking, music, craft beer, good food , socialising , site seeing and of course school visiting. Phew !

Mrs B said...

Wowsers! Keep the updates coming, great Sunday afternoon reading. My takeaway...personalisation and authenticity, and funding.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Hope Lisa didn't mind us putting her blog on last weeks readings. Looking forward to your continued adventures