The philosophy of Valley New School rests on the belief that the processes of learning are more important than specific curricula. Time management, problem-solving, research, writing, reading and speaking skills are essential to the success of students in the 21st Century. Knowing that engaged students are more productive, VNS offers an environment where “smaller is better,” creating a safe and caring culture that encourages individual involvement and responsibility in all aspects of the school. VNS believes that humans are naturally curious. Student-driven, project-based education empowers students and staff to utilize their passions/interests as a catalyst for in-depth research and high-quality products.
“VNS is: a community of people with passions; dreams pursued; aspiration to learn; desire for success; a place connecting us by our goals of achievement, empowering me to live life to the fullest.”
– Natalie, 15
The spirit of Valley New School includes responsibility of the individual to him/herself, the school community, and the wider community, both local and global. Service Learning projects, live community sources for research, and frequent use of outside speakers, programs, and teaching resources give students a sense of their interdependence with the larger culture.
“Valley New School has led me to a more thoughtful approach to the world. I tread more lightly; I think more clearly; I listen more patiently.”
– Ellen, 18
Essential to the unique culture at VNS is a new paradigm that defines the relationships among the students and adults at the school. Advisors and students, along with other school staff and parents, act as true partners in designing, supporting, and evaluating project work. In addition, students feel free to talk with advisors about personal issues and seek help in navigating the minefields of adolescence. Advisors interact with students virtually every moment of each day and, therefore, have a clear view of all aspects of the students’ lives. While both difficult and rewarding, the bonds formed are strong and real change is seen in students on a continual basis.
“I thank my advisor for being there through thick and thin. I thank Mrs. Plamann and Mrs. Luedtke for being concerned about my world outside of school. Treat your advisors like they are your best friends!”
– Kaylee, 17
The vision for project-based learning and VNS is to create empowered and responsible people. A world in constant change requires young adults to be prepared as life-long learners. Focusing on process rather than content encourages the development of skills that will prove valuable as goals, job content, and interests change.
“Victory – to be yourself, exploring how and what you wish to learn. North, South, East, West; go wherever your learning takes you. Sky is not the limit; here you can go beyond.”
– Elora, 16