Problem: Traditional expository lessons, which are often considered tedious for students, are fervently avoided by the school. In traditional types of learning, students become disinterested quite easily and are forced to stay seated for long periods of time merely listening. Founded in 1967 in California, The Nueva School accepts gifted students, allowing them to use their intuition in their learning and on their projects in a practical way.
Solutions: This private school teaches students from kindergarten to high school. The institution is notable for its application of design thinking and prototyping laboratories, which are referred to as 'maker spaces'. The learning process is student-centered, allowing each student to work investigatively, in an interdisciplinary manner, on real-world issues. Students can work individually or in large or small groups, conducting research on a common topic or working on their reading comprehension and math skills with some classmates. The project is based on constructivism and socio-emotional learning.
The school maintains a laboratory, known as Innovation Lab, which was conceived through a partnership with the IDEO Company, known as the Stanford University Hasso Plattner Design Institute. There, students learn by applying design concepts on a day-to-day basis to resolve problems. They apply the arts and the principles of engineering to the establishment of hypotheses, the creation of prototypes and the testing of solutions to improve our world.
Companies seek out the school to use it as a vehicle for inspiring the creation and improvement of products through the participation of the students. There are a number of teachers that are specialized in various elective courses in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are known by the acronym STEM, as well as the field of the arts, entrepreneurship and physical education. During the technology lesson, for example, students experiment with digital tools, they improve their typing abilities as they post comments on blogs, they participate in robotics competitions and they learn to edit video and musical presentations. The students work on their own laptop starting sixth grade. Other activities, such as the Nueva Math Circles, are also conducted, in which the children are invited to engage in activities that involve math, by playing, putting together jigsaw puzzles and solving problems. Students can also participate in a course on entrepreneurship where they learn to develop their own business idea and put it to work.
Outcomes: These young adults have the confidence to invent things and develop the passion to learn for the rest of their lives. They are groomed to be socially and emotionally developed. They are also motivated, creative and responsible. The practical, hands-on activities develop connections with the real world and help students to take their work seriously. In addition, these activities aid in perfecting critical and analytical skills in a way that is creative and emotionally moving. The school has been recognized nationally and internationally, earning awards like the US Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Award and the American Institute of Architects Award for School Design and Sustainability.