Everything else is changing, why shouldn’t education?
In the face of profound global challenges, we must reimagine education to empower students with the skills, knowledge, and mindset to drive positive change. Yet many schools still operate like factories, valuing tradition and conformity over creativity. This leaves students ill-equipped for the future, merely trained to impress college admission offices, not to lead.
At NEIA, we believe that giving learners permission to follow their passions is the key to unlocking active student engagement. Our curriculum and structure are built to be relevant and future-focused. We want students to have the time and resources to build upon, nurture, discover, and pursue passions. Here are some of the ways we go about doing just that:
Through a thorough examination of a topic of interest, with some autonomy in designing the course, students can build critical thinking skills and personal responsibility.
The Passion Dive (i.e., an Independent Study) provides students with an opportunity to develop their own learning plan centered on a topic of personal interest related to one of NEIA’s subject areas. Through research, experiences, and creative modalities, innovators will deepen their knowledge and understanding of the topic. The coursework and products created throughout the Passion Dive will be largely guided by the topic of interest; however, innovators must explore their passion through the lenses of the NEIA Pillars. Outlined coursework will be approved and supported by a staff member with regular benchmarks and workshop meetings to refine and analyze processes and provide feedback. This is an opportunity for innovators to have extensive voice and choice related to their learning. (Innovators must apply and be approved to take a Passion Dive.)
NEIA’s design, unlike more traditional schools, is flexible for a student. If they aren’t interested in one of our explorations, they have the ability to organize a different pursuit. Our 7-day cycle, rather than a set daily schedule, is essential for this flexibility since it allows students to miss class time without missing the same class twice. This is just one example of how NEIA was purposefully designed to foster passion in students, while still ensuring other core subjects aren’t neglected.
Learning Extensions Policy
Additionally, we have an important, school-wide Learning Extensions policy: teachers should only assign an “average” of 30 minutes of Learning Extensions per class. Too often, students are up later than their parents, cramming for tests and working through mountains of coursework. We do not want to bury students in outside work and leave them no time to pursue things they are interested in. Many NEIA families have already seen the benefit of this approach in their own homes at their own kitchen tables: by giving students time and space to explore, we create a community of empowered, energized students.
"At NEIA, we believe it essential to allow students to follow their passions and equip them with the resources to do so. If we do that, they will lead themselves to their purpose."