Students who transferred to TNS from other schools describe the difference

Self-directed Learning

At The New School, students learn how to take charge of their education. Their interests and passions are ignited by a wide range of choice in the curriculum and the experience of designing their own courses of study. Depending on their interests, learning might take place in our building or an art studio in NYC, on an island off the Maine coast or an organic farm in the Midwest, or in a remote village in Central America. Seminar-style classes, field studies, apprenticeships, interdisciplinary courses and three-week “Intensives” bring a depth of understanding that relatively few young people acquire, and build confident, accomplished, self-directed learners.

Curriculum Highlights

In keeping with the State of ME Learning Results standards, our curriculum consists in part of core courses in the areas of English & Language Arts, American History and Government, Social Studies, Science, Mathematics, Physical Education, Health, Fine Arts, Visual and Performing Arts, and World Languages.

hands on math

A hands-on math project

Program Philosophy:

Electives at TNS vary widely and are limited only by students’ interests and imaginations. Helping students find their passions and discover who they are is a central aim of TNS. Over the years, in direct response to students’ requests we have offered courses such as Gaelic, Food & Culture, Aikido, Economics & World Issues, American Sign Language, Chess, and many others.

All entering students take a Self-Directed Learning Seminar to orient them to the school’s approach, discuss different ways of learning and discover their own learning styles, learn independent study and research skills, and become familiar with the ME Learning Results and underlying Guiding Principles.

Seminar style classes

Small, seminar-style classes are lively and engaging

Students also develop Personal Learning Plans which outline their academic, health and personal goals. Every student meets weekly with a Faculty Advisor who helps them design their Plans, document and assess their work, troubleshoot challenges that arise, build their portfolios, understand their learning styles, manage their time, be a contributing member of the school community and explore careers and post-graduate studies.

Courses at TNS are often interdisciplinary and include real work in the community — for instance, students might learn chemistry and biology while restoring a local wetland. During election years students study the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the history of elections while working on referenda or helping candidates of their choice.

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An apprenticeship restoring antique trolleys

Apprenticeships and Independent Studies with local artisans, non-profit organizations and businesses are commonplace. The New School has a wide network of community members who act as mentors to students, providing relationships with significant adults and the chance to experience new learning in a living context. Typical studies have been alternative energy engineering, early childhood development at local elementary schools, organic gardening with local farmers, bicycle repair, antique trolley restoration, veterinary medicine and equestrian science at a horse farm.

research paper

A student working on a research paper

Each year TNS offers a number of Challenge Courses at advanced levels. Third and fourth year students are encouraged to take courses at local colleges to acquire direct experience with college level coursework.

During their final year at TNS students participate in weekly Senior Seminars with their Advisors to prepare them for graduation requirements, develop their portfolios, apply and schedule visits to colleges, or explore and transition to careers.

A Senior Project is a significant undertaking designed and implemented by students during their final year. Projects requires a minimum of 200 hours and may take place on-site or away from school. Projects are reviewed by a committee of at least 7 people, including parents, peers, Faculty Advisor, and others chosen by the student. The student must explicitly show how the project reflects the Maine Learning Results Guiding Principles. Below are a few examples of Senior Projects:

  • Xander built a beautiful cedar strip canoe for exploring Maine’s rivers.
  • Jade and her father went to Guatemala with Masons on a Mission to help Mayan villages build efficient cooking stoves. She came home and built TNS an outdoor brick pizza oven with her father and brother, which we use regularly and love.
  • Jared, with his interest in landscape architecture, designed a new parking lot for the school, including a rain garden that drains water from the parking lot. He selected and planted all the native plants for the garden. Five years later, it still works like a charm.
  • Aleah produced, directed, acted, and did fundraising and publicity for a public performance of the play The Vagina Monologues, which reflected her passion for theater and women’s issues.
  • Tom and Elena spent four months in Peru working in an orphanage to both learn Spanish and increase their understanding of people in poverty. Both were led to careers in international relations: Tom works for an international educational exchange non-profit, and Elena traveled and studied extensively in China.
  • Nate wrote a cookbook, all handwritten, hand illustrated and full of stories about the people who contributed their favorite recipes to his book. He spent the following year traveling and working on organic farms around the country.