Visit to Nueva School

On Wednesday, February 24, I visited The Nueva School in Hillsborough, CA. Thanks to the gracious hosting of Nueva, my colleagues and I joined a number of other visiting educators, and we toured the Lower and Middle Schools.

The campus and the learning spaces are beautiful with numerous patios, outdoor gathering areas, green spaces, trails, and purposeful hallways and classrooms full of visible learning. The guide explained a few times that the school is geared toward talented and gifted, and the curriculum works on an above-grade-level paradigm. Most compelling to me were the 1) integrated curricula, such as humanities; 2) the design and engineering programming and space; 3) the visiting and resident scholars who were enriching instruction; and 4) the sense of joy that permeated a serious pursuit of content knowledge.

In the moments that we toured the design and engineering space and observed a session there, the fifth graders were exploring motors and gears as a sub-discovery lesson related to their bigger design challenge of developing a tree house prototype for a composite user of “1st grader” that they had begun by interviewing and observing their younger schoolmates.

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Visit to Brightworks School

I met Gever Tulley in 2010. We spoke at the same TEDxAtlanta event, and then Gever extended his stay in Atlanta so we could hang out and talk more about schools and education. Mostly, we talked about how schools could better “mirror” deep learning.

After that, I rushed out and bought his book, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), and my sons and I added it to our Father-Son-Based-Learning (#fsbl) excursions. And we regularly re-watch Gever’s talks from the big TED stage.

Gever and I keep up sporadically, and I would count him as a huge influencer of mine. When he founded Brightworks, an amazing, change-everything school, I followed with great interest and excitement.

So, I consider it a dream come true that I was able to visit Brightworks on Tuesday, February 23! The two-hour immersion was intriguing and inspiring and provocative. Having colleagues from Mount Vernon and Hillbrook School enriched the experience even further because we were able to exchange curiosities, reactions, inquiries, and ponderings.

What stood out most to me? The high degree of ownership that students possessed and demonstrated about their relationship to learning. The high degree of trust that “collaborators” (the Brightworks word for teachers) exhibited for the learners. The empowered vibe that children exuded as they explored deep curiosities and thrived in a culture of exploration-expression-exhibition arcs of learning. The mixed-age “bands” that prioritized relationship and community. Content was at the service of explored curiosity, rather than any sense of compliance-based digestion of content out of context.

My visit will have me thinking for a long time!

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