A Unique Liberal Arts and Sciences Education
The New School is perhaps best thought of as a middle/high school version of a liberal arts and sciences college. We are situated on a cozy, wooded campus; the average class size is 10 students; classes are engaging and participatory; students have considerable choices in their course selection and project work; and teachers and students approach one another as friendly colleagues. Uniquely, too, we have an international studies and service program and travel the world each year.
It’s these five approaches – Questions & Critical Thinking; Small Classes Inspired by Big Ideas; Choice and Projects; Teacher-Student Collaboration; and International Studies and Service – that distinguish The New School as a unique liberal arts and sciences education. Let’s take a closer look.
Questions and Critical Thinking
A New School education is not about the memorization of facts or teaching to the test. Rather, we believe learning is best when classes are purposeful and students, working closely with their teachers, learn to think critically and creatively and create meaning from facts.
Our students love their classes because teachers focus on big questions (rather than multiple choice questions) that inspire their intellects and invite them to share ideas and solve problems. Such purposeful, “big” questions include:
- What is a just society? (Government)
- How have diseases changed societies? (Biology)
- Why do people move? (World Studies)
- How may the laws of motion help us understand, and thus improve, energy efficiency in transportation? (Physics)
- How have writers changed the world? (English / Social Studies)
This process of education – students assembling and synthesizing facts to answer a purposeful question, all the while working closely with their teachers – is what we mean by our mission to help students learn to use their minds well.
Small Classes and Essential Skills
The hallmark of The New School is our thought-provoking classes; and with an average of 10 students per class, every student is heard and engaged.
Our diploma subjects are traditional – English, biology, computer science, U.S. history, foreign language, world studies, arts, etc. – but teachers focus on genuine understanding, the whys and hows within each subject, rather than rush through a textbook of facts.
Our students learn to engage with content critically and creatively in each subject, and develop essential skills of problem solving, writing, and public speaking across the disciplines It’s this focus on communication and interdisciplinary skills, what we call “habits of mind,” that distinguish The New School as a unique liberal arts & sciences education.
A New School classroom is a dynamic and exploratory space, with students asking questions and participating in classroom learning; and teachers, in turn, working closely with students, engaging them in fascinating conversations about class material, and giving them meaningful feedback on their work.
Projects and Time to Think
Good teachers know that students are invested and truly learn when they are working toward a meaningful goal, using multiple skills, reason, knowledge, and creativity to do things like answer an open-ended question, write a short story, or design a scientific experiment. This is the great value of student-driven projects, which are featured in many of our classes and represent an important method of learning and assessment.
Challenge at The New School is about depth of understanding and sophistication of academic skills. Projects allow teachers and students to work “at eye level”: students have considerable say in the direction of their work, and teachers give students specific, encouraging feedback and challenge them to hone their skills and master content. Growth is a process; we value giving students time to think and learn deeply, with choice and direction, rather than base learning on memorization and the quicker and quicker pace of instruction.
The result is students setting high, unanxious expectations for themselves.
Great Classes = Thriving Students
We know that the #1 factor in a student’s growth and happiness is the teacher. And when our students reflect on their New School experience, the first comment is always the same: I love my teachers.
New School teachers are highly skilled and intelligent, but above all else they are dedicated to working with students. Every individual learns differently – there is no-one-size-fits-all education – and such a collaborative model encourages students to self-advocate, set higher standards for their work, and believe in themselves as successful learners.
The great majority of our teachers have been with us for over 12 years – and many for over 20 years – and, like the students, they enjoy their days and share in our collective spirit of good-humor, community, and intellectual excitement.
We’re a people school, and when people feel appreciated, trusted, and free to express themselves, they are their best selves; they are thoughtful, open-minded, self-motivated, and kind. Education is about people – it’s about teachers and students – and when you put people at the center of a school, you are working toward an inspiring school.
International Studies and Service
A core value of The New School is person-to-person respect and appreciating different perspectives, and it follows naturally for us that a 21st century education needs to be globally-minded. Each year we travel the world. Our trips are project-based and provide students an important opportunity to apply their foreign language skills, make new friends, and experience life on someone else’s terms. Our students return from studies and service abroad appreciative and energized by the sense of many paths in life and possibilities in the world.
Past trips and their focuses include:
Austria – Architecture and Design
Kenya – Community Service
Spain – Language and Culture
England – Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre
Peru – Community Service
Costa Rica – Marine Biology
Germany – Film and Culture
Ghana – Technical Training and Cultural Exchange