Although it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by, The New Century School‘s oldest students will soon be facing a giant decision: Where will I go to high school? Baltimore City has some great options, and a very special new one will be opening in the Highlandtown area that might particularly interest TNCS families.
Introducing The DaVinci Collaborative!
The DaVinci Collaborative, as it will be named, is a “year-round high school with interdisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities infused with the arts and technology,” according to their website. In some important ways, this is a continuation of a key TNCS approach to learning—especially in being driven primarily by inquiry, by focusing on the whole student, and by cultivating mentor–mentee relationships.
As appropriate for high school students, DVC will not just be a continuation, however: “Students will take charge of their learning and the design of the collaborative. They will work and learn alongside community organizations and businesses that co-locate in our space.” In other words, the DVC model incorporates learning through internships with community business liaisons. It’s learning by doing at the meta level. By focusing on career from the outset, students will graduate into a world where they can thrive, not flounder, having cultivated skills as well as practiced making connections.
DVC is the brainchild of Helene Luce, who is passionate about education and about supporting Baltimore and helping its residents flourish. Ms. Luce joins her vast education experience that ranges from high school history teacher, serving on a charter school board, professional development for faculty, to curriculum design and writing, with a keen social awareness in cofounding the DaVinci Collaborative (along with an extended 25-member team including fellow Baltimore educators and others).
“I had this idea of starting a high school,” she explains, “that really got off the ground when we applied to win ‘super school’ funding with Project XQ.” Project XQ is an organization devoted to “reimagining high school”—because the status quo system has failed so many U.S. students in so many different ways. Schools that apply to be XQ super schools seek to revolutionize how high school is done to better serve our nation’s students and to optimize their development using their innate gifts rather than . “Out of 1,400 total applicants, we were 1 of 50 finalists,” continued Ms. Luce, “which validated that our ideas were worth pursuing. Even though we didn’t win, we knew we had something and decided to apply as a Baltimore City charter school.”
Big Picture Learning
DVC is currently at a critical point in its evolution: The application for charter school status will be submitted by the end of this month, and potential school locations are being scouted in Southeast Baltimore (psst—they have a strong lead on a great spot!). Ms. Luce feels strongly that DVC will achieve these short-term goals, the founders having spent the last 2 years building community support and awareness, making useful connections, and applying for grants. And, recently, DVC has come under the aegis of Big Picture Learning.
BPL’s mission is to “put students at the center of their own learning.” By educating “one student at a time,” they have flipped the conventional, grading-based school paradigm on its head. Instead of standardization, BLP adopts “an education system that inspires and awakens the possibilities of an engaged population of learners.” The organization began in Providence Rhode Island in 1995 at The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center and quickly attracted national attention with its immediate success in graduating students who were prepared to contribute meaningfully to the world. Just 1 year after it graduated its first class of students, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation named “The Met” its favorite high school and awarded funding to U.S. schools to replicate its revolutionary approach.
Being 1 of the 65 BPL schools nationwide will provide the DaVinci Collaborative with an immense library of resources, which will be an enormous help to a new school. “Our values and their values are very much aligned,” said Ms. Luce. “They will support with lots of innovative programs and services—we won’t be dangling out there on our own.”
It’s also an honor in it’s own right. What does it take to be a BPL school? BPL enumerates “10 Distinguishers“:
- One student at a time
- Advisory structure
- Learning through interests and internships
- Parent and family engagement
- School culture
- Authentic assessment
- School organization
- Post-secondary planning
- Professional development
With plans to open in summer 2019, DVC needs an essential component in place: founding parents. If you think the DaVinci Collaborative sounds like an educational environment that Southeast Baltimore students could benefit from, consider joining as a founding parent—no commitment to attend the school is required to do so.