New School Year, New Focus at Berthold Academy

This summer, we focused intently on two areas of growth now being introduced to the students: organization and mindfulness. It's essential that we do so because another important aspect of what the staff and I worked on this summer is authentically embodying the principles we are teaching.

Since it's orientation week and students are getting introduced to these new principles, I wanted to mention several main areas that have become our key foundations to nurture this growth... growth that will continue throughout the year for both students and staff.

Thoughtful Organization of the Physical Environment...Caring for Our Communal Spaces

If you've taken a look around the school, you've probably seen the careful attention we gave to reorganizing the physical space with the tremendous support of Raj and Jen Banga. They are ingenious at optimizing the floor plan while cultivating an inviting, warm feeling within the school. You may also have noticed some of the display boards that were created for our halls by our new teaching assistant for the Upper School, Colleen La France. These are intended not only to introduce new principles but also to serve as guides for our development throughout the year. I'll mention a few of the key areas now.

An Emphasis on Inter- and Intra-Personal Development

Balancing Maria Montessori's principles with current research into character development and educational psycology, we have chosen to focus intently on supporting students in developing an authentic sense of self-control through consciously organized Personal Development programs that teach Organizational Skills and Mindfulness. Students receive regular weekly mindfulness instruction, which is also embedded into the school day, and are asked to set personal practice goals. Additionally, we are teaching organizational strategies with specific goals each trimester, and supporting it with dedicated time in the morning, end of day, and end of week to set and review goals. This trimester, we are all focusing on coming to class prepared, remembering and following directions, and getting to work right away rather than waiting until the last minute. Learn more about this program, which was co-developed with Laurie Young's assistance, on our website.

Our Six Phases of Project-Based Learning

We have defined what we call a "meta-structure" that empowers students in "learning how to learn" as they are working on various projects in a variety of classes, especially those involving project-based and experiential learning. These are areas where students are expected to take personal responsibility for choosing and immersing themselves in an area of study, then present it in some way to their class. By not only teaching the topic of inquiry but also providing instruction on skills within these six phases, we support them in doing so. The six phases are: Inspiration, Exploration, Design, Immersion, Finalizing and Presenting.  We, then, as a community, have a shared vocabulary in which we can discuss student progress.

Creative Expression Electives with New Choices Each Trimester

Upper School will have the option of choosing from an elective class each trimester in the areas of Art, Music and Design. This allows the student to be immersed in a specific area of creative study for a longer period of time. The options this trimester are Songwriting, Advanced Drawing & Painting, and Design Thinking - Spatial Solutions.  Students will be exploring these options and making choices on their area of study this week.

In my next blog, I'll be talking about some of the deeper curriculum organization that was done this summer to prepare for our students' return, including Trimester Themes, Interdisciplinary Study, and a more robust Culinary program. It's been a great Orientation Week, and especially after the intense planning and organizational work this summer, I am enjoying the calm, organized and mindful space we have created for our students and our staff. I am energized and excited about all that the year will bring!