At Blue School, the pursuit of creativity revolves around the thinking process. Course content for students in grades 6-8 focuses on six “Ways of Thinking”: Establishing Voice, Asking Questions, Perspective Taking, Using Evidence, and Promoting Reflection. Classes in Mathematics, Integrated Studies (team-taught Science & World History), and Novels and Nonfiction, along with a variety of arts disciplines, offer ample opportunities for students to hone these skills.
“Ways of Thinking” are on full display at the school’s biannual Presentations of Learning. Over the course of several hours, students present one “published” piece — perhaps an essay or challenging math problem — and the multiple drafts that preceded it, to a group of peers, teachers, administrators, local “experts,” and parents. In advance, students perform a skit suggesting how to give good, specific, and helpful feedback. Each observer provides it, based on strengths and areas for growth.
Showing their understanding of the content and its related vocabulary before an authentic audience requires flexibility, communication and thinking skills, and subject mastery. Sixth graders recently demonstrated their own voices in attempting to answer the question, “What makes us human?”, using evidence, multiple sources, and perspectives. “I always get really nervous,” says one class member, “and we work really hard on the essays and then on the presentations. But it’s great to realize how far we’ve come.”
“It’s also great professional development for the faculty,” says Mathematics Coordinator Meredith Lorber. “We really push students to consider their thinking skills, and practice metacognition and communication. We also get to look closely at one another’s work with the students we share.”