Valley New School (VNS) provides an unusual environment in several ways. No separate classrooms, but a large, open, business-like space. No rows of desks, but pods of L-shaped workstations with a computer shared by each pair of students. No “teachers,” but an advisor assigned to each group of approximately 16 students. No bells, but time-management placed essentially in the hands of individual students. No individual classes, but student-directed research projects.
VNS Mission Statement:
To create a learning community that empowers individuals to become purposeful adults.
The curricular focus of the VNS model is rooted in the concept that each person is his/her own best teacher. Instead of formal, subject-oriented classes, students develop their own learning experiences based on their interests and passions. Students work with parents and advisors to develop and complete comprehensive research projects (approximately 1000 hours of documented work per year). Completed projects are evaluated and credit is granted based on the quality and breadth of each student’s work.
The educational goals at VNS center on empowerment of the entire school community. Students, staff, and parents are encouraged to take responsibility and ownership of the learning model. Students become independent, self-motivated, lifelong learners as they develop their individual talents. Numerous opportunities for community involvement and connection nurture the ethic of community responsibility as students prepare to continue their educational paths.
Valley New School offers 64 students in grades 7-12 the opportunity to learn in an integrated, project-based environment. VNS provides unprecedented access to technology, an active focus on the community, and a student-advisor ratio of 16 to 1. The school has been designated as a national “lab school” for project-based learning by the Gates-EdVisions organization and, as such, provides an example and leadership in best practices for this learning model.