Every now and then, my work for ISACS takes me along a familiar path. This was the case, and my pleasure, when I visited Tom Rosenbluth at The Orchard School in Indianapolis. Tom began his tenure as Head of School in 2013, placed by the consulting firm of Gregory Floyd & Associates. The consultants were Gregory Floyd and yours truly.
The Orchard School describes itself as a progressive, non-sectarian, independent school committed to advancing each student’s academic success, self-confidence, open-mindedness, ethical character, leadership, and love of learning. The school’s mission is to develop and educate the whole child. Spanning preschool through grade eight, the program currently serves approximately 620 students.
A walk through the
campus underscores the progressive nature of the program. Project-based learning, interdisciplinary studies, and elements of character education are visible in classrooms, corridors, and outdoor spaces.
What aspect of The Orchard School would Tom Rosenbluth most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Says Tom:
We are fostering a culture of innovation in all aspects of the school in the hope that we can simultaneously honor and respect the traditions of Orchard and also be in the habit of studying current trends in education, examples of best practices and new ideas. After all, a main tenet of progressive education is a commitment to evolutionary growth and we expect to model adult learning in the company of friends.
Additionally, we are at work asking the courageous questions that require us to look at ourselves in the mirror and refine old practices that may benefit from fresh perspectives. This has led to an outpouring of new ideas and liberating discussions — a small renaissance of pedagogy and practice. The phrase I hear often now is, “I wonder if we….” Our doors are always open for fellow educators to visit and join the dialogue.
After several years as head of school at Roeper School in Bloomfield, Michigan, Chuck Webster and his wife moved to Indianapolis to start a new high school. That school became University High School, founded in 2000 in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel. This was my stop on the eve of the ISACS Annual Conference.
Today University High School serves 280 students in grades nine through twelve. Its mission is to “expand the hearts and minds of students and to nurture excellence through academic, creative and physical achievement.”
As we walked through the campus, I enjoyed Chuck’s easy interaction with students, sharing an observation, following up on a recent conversation, commenting on a shared moment in class. I had the opportunity to observe Chuck’s sophomore English class in session — including a Hamlet soliloquy! Toward the end of the class period, Chuck turned it over to me. I asked the class: “Why are you here? What makes this school special?” The resounding theme was that this is a school that empowers each student to be an individual.
What one aspect of University High School would Chuck most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Chuck points to the school’s January Term, or J-Term, a three-week period between semesters when students immerse themselves in a single area of study, often involving field experience and travel and always including hands-on, active, applied learning. He sees this program as a model for 21st Century teaching and learning.
J-Term courses this year include:
En route to the ISACS Annual Conference in Indianapolis last month, I detoured a bit east of my usual route in order to visit Culver Academies. As is often my routine, I arrived a few moments early, found the visitors’ parking area, and took a few moments to get my bearings. To my surprise, I found myself on the shore of Lake Maxinkuckie, a sizable inland lake.
I found the Culver Legion Memorial Building, home of the Head’s Office, and introduced myself to Head of Schools John Buxton. Soon we were off on my second campus tour by golf cart since beginning my tenure in July.
I learned that Culver, founded as Culver Military Academy in 1894, added Culver Summer Schools and Camps in 1902 and the Culver Girls Academy in 1971. Today, the school serves 830 students in grades nine through twelve and 1400 summer students on a campus that spans 1700 acres. The program offerings are wide and deep: 23 Advanced Placement courses and electives in every discipline, more than a dozen vocal and instrumental performing groups, and over 50 athletics teams including marksmanship, sailing, and rowing. Its mission has remained focused on leadership development: Culver educates its students for leadership and responsible citizenship in society by developing and nurturing the whole individual — mind, spirit, and body — through integrated programs that emphasize the cultivation of character.
We wrapped up my visit with a meeting with the academic leadership team, where we discussed Culver, the school’s history and experiences with ISACS, and the needs of independent schools in general. What one aspect of Culver Academies would the team like to highlight for their ISACS colleagues? Ultimately, they pointed to their emphasis on faculty growth — including significant release time for collaboration and mutual support and a robust faculty portfolio program.
In early September, I made an east-to-west tour across Indiana and Kentucky, with a first stop at Evansville Day School to visit with new Head of School Jarin Jaffee.
Evansville Day School serves 328 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 with a mission to offer, in partnership with parents, a student-centered, college-preparatory program supported by a challenging and comprehensive curriculum that encourages each student to strive for excellence in mind, body, and human spirit.
Jarin Jaffee speaks with enthusiasm about the school’s existing collaborative, integrated-subject, and project-based offerings and looks forward to highlighting and further developing these “21st Century skills” aspects of the school over the course of his tenure.
What, in particular, would he like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Jarin points to the Evansville Day broadcast journalism class. Students write the week’s school news, report using their monitor-based teleprompter, video-record, and edit.
I had the opportunity to see this course in action — and you can, too, by checking out their broadcasts on the EDSNews postings on YouTube. You’ll find their episodes obviously student-generated, newsy, and humorous. Here’s a recent edition: