Thursday, 4 May 2017

What did I learn today? Part four

Today, Lisa and I visited Nueva School in Hillsborough. We spent time at the pre-K to Middle school.

The Pre-K and grades one and two are housed in an old summer house that used to belong to the Crocker Family (not baking but banking). They have utilised Reggio thinking as well as play based, discovery and design thinking to create learning that is really student focused. Mess is everywhere in a play-centre type set up, with staff allowing creativity and ownership at the expense of pretty!

The old family home.

 The view from the front door.

The skills they set out to achieve are embedded from an early age, growing in complexity as they move through the school. Some areas of learning are not explored until certain ages, but they have thought a great deal about the why sitting behind it.

The Nueva School's learning goals include:
  • To inspire a passion for lifelong learning
  • To foster social and emotional acuity
  • To develop a child's imaginative mind
  • To enable children to learn how to make choices that will benefit the world
  • To establish foundational skills in all subject areas
  • To encourage strong habits of learning
  • To learn research and design thinking skills
  • To help students reflect on their particular learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses
  • To give students myriad opportunities to learn through hands-on exploration
  • To support students as they develop resilience and intrinsic motivation

They have used the spaces in the old house well to create indoor outdoor flow with a real sense of the student being at the heart.

The 8th graders have the opportunity to dig really deeply into an area of interest through a recital project. The goals for this are
Eighth Grade Recital Projects require students to:
  • choose a project area and make a plan.
  • recruit and meet with a mentor (an adult who is not a parent) in the field of study.
  • write a research paper (1,000 words or more) that builds knowledge of an aspect of the project and/or gives greater context for the project.
  • draft a comprehensive project plan with monthly updates to help students learn project-management techniques for long-term projects.
  • design and implement a "Bettering the World" component for the project. Generally, this falls into three categories: 1) Raise funds or using a skill to help a nonprofit organization, 2) educate others about some aspect of their project, and 3) demonstrate that the project itself somehow benefits the world.

As you move through the school the spaces are newer and more purpose built to allow subject specialisation, for more design thinking and the building of empathy that goes with it. The school still has a very graded approach and we didn't see differentiation going on, but understand that there is opportunities at both ends for support.

So what did I learn today?

I learned that we give schools exceptional tours and go deeply into the why.

I learned that the importance of experiential learning along with contextual academic links can be powerful at any age.

I learned that deliberate acts of teaching at the point of need are more effective than a random planned piece of learning.

I learned that to have some headspace and time to talk really does re-ignite the passion for the challenges we face. I know I need to temper this with the needs of the staff who are at school at the coal face, so I thank Lisa who has been listening to me ramble on about idea after idea.

We have a couple of days left before we head back. I am very grateful to all those who helped make this happen, the Board at school, my wonderful staff, thanks Erin and team for holding the fort. Maurie for inviting me to gatecrash his sabbatical, lisa for putting up with me and of course Sarah and the kids for helping me escape for a week.

It's been an amazing week and I will return.


  1. Oh, I like this school and its goals! Interesting context Daniel for that continuity discussion of developing values across both schools? What are your abilities / obstacles around forming mentor partnerships for projects?

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