Every child is born with immense natural talents. How they develop has much to do with the environment in which they are raised and the opportunities they are given. Education should be among the best of those opportunities.
- Sir Ken Robinson
Our Approach to Learning
Our learning approach is modeled after MIT's "Mens et Manus" (Mind and Hand) approach to learning. Key themes:
Expose students to as many concepts and fields of study as possible. Our goal is to open students' eyes to a world of possibilities and interests - and help them learn something about a large number of fields so they can make well-informed career decisions and lead richer lives. Our academic programs:
Show students how to apply subject-matter knowledge in different fields of study while providing a glimpse of different professions
(apply English to the Digital Arts, apply Math to Architecture, apply Biology to Engineering)
Teach students practical skills they can use throughout their academic and personal lives
Enable students to try different fields of study to discover which ones they like and may want to pursue in the future
Help students put ideas into practice. "Practice" is a term borrowed from the professional world. Doctors have a practice. Lawyers have a practice. Architects and designers have a practice. In these fields, and in Design Colleges around the country, "practice" means taking what someone has learned in the classroom and applying it to Creation and Problem Solution. It is a way to make learning concrete and put it to practical ends.
Students work collaboratively on real-life projects in action learning labs tailored to three areas of practice: Engineering, Life Sciences, and Computing / New Technologies.
In the Engineering Lab, students might build a mechanical device, such as a rescue drone, using the knowledge they pick up in the lab itself and from their other courses
In the Life Sciences Lab, students would culture living organisms to, for example, grow algae that can be turned into biofuel.
In the Computing / New Technologies Lab, students might make wearable electronic textiles that are programmed to light-up and serve a specific purpose.
None of the labs are devoted purely to one enterprise. A rescue drone requires an understanding of electricity and mechanics, but also programming. Converting algae to biofuel requires biology, but also math and mechanics. Robotic development requires programming, but also mechanics, electronics, math, and even some biology and physics.
Create a teacher community, where teaching is a team sport. Teachers collaborate daily, and engage in weekly workshops to discuss ways to refine/advance the curriculum, ensure continuity between courses and action learning labs, and discuss new ideas, and teaching methods. Teachers also have access to an online Teacher's Forum, where they can post classroom/project successes and learnings – in written, photo, and video formats. These artifacts are shared with colleagues, so everyone can learn from any one teacher's approaches and experiences.
Teachers frequently engage in outside activities, including lectures and seminars at area universities, monthly round-table discussions with engineers, scientists, and technologies at partner companies, and visits to other schools - to observe their approaches and learn from their best practices.
School Models That Have Influenced our Design
Ben Franklin Academy of Philadelphia where practical subjects and invention are emphasized
Big Picture Learning and their use of coaches to guide students
Coalition of Essential Schools and their use of performance-based assessment
High Tech High and New Tech Network schools and their emphasis on project-based learning
Nueva School’s emphasis on integrated studies, creative arts, and design thinking
NuVu Cambridge and their use of architectural studio model to guide multi-disciplinary projects
Quest to Learn’s use of game-based problem solving
Studio Schools in the UK that regard “studios” as Da Vinci did, as places where both science & art take place
Summit Public Schools’ approach to personalized learning and daily reading program