Updates: Harvest will hold an open house at the site of our school, 34 West 14th St on Monday, March 12, from 5-7pm. Hope to meet you there!
I am humbled and incredibly excited to share that I am going to be part of a team that opens Harvest Collegiate High School, a new NYC public school. We will open our doors to about 100 freshmen next September, and grow over four years to serve students in grades 9-12. More information about the school, which is completely inline with my educational philosophies, is below.
I am very excited that the school will allow me to continue my relationship with the Institute for Student Achievement, which I have been a part of at both Bronx Lab and the Academy for Young Writers. I am also extremely excited to be founding a school that will be part of the Coalition of Essential Skills, ten years after reading Ted Sizer’s work convinced me to become a teacher.
A mutual acquaintance introduced me to the school’s founding principal, Kate Burch, who has been a teacher and director of professional development at Humanities Prep in Manhattan. We instantly hit it off. I will be the school’s founding humanities teacher (pending the official hiring process in the Spring), as well as a partner in much of the planning of the school, its curriculum, and its day to day operations.
I am looking forward to sharing the joys and challenges of this journey in the coming years as I get the opportunity to implement many of the lessons I’ve learned from so many thus far in my career.
Mission & Vision
Mission Statement: Harvest Collegiate High School offers a rich and challenging intellectual education rooted in a growth cycle of compelling experience, inquiry and the pursuit of precision, culminating in the collaborative construction of meaning, action and reflection. We believe in cultivating students’ power to produce and reflect, rather than simply consume, as a fundamental way of being in the world. Our learning experiences are designed to stimulate immersion through disciplined habits of thought on topics of moral or aesthetic significance, while cultivating a powerful sense of competence, autonomy and belonging. We aspire to being, and to contributing creatively to, a “sane society,” one of peace, growth, even joy. We believe all young people flourish in conditions that challenge and support, so in our commitment to excellence through diversity and equity, we aim to serve the varied students of the city. We prepare students for success in college and for participatory leadership that promotes Harvest’s values of active responsibility for mankind and our earth.
Harvest Collegiate High School aims to achieve its mission through:
- Focusing on the challenging and engaging work of inquiry in true preparation for college with the research, support and partnership of the Institute for Student Achievement
- Authentic intellectual work and authentic assessment, tied to Habits of Mind and Heart that promote lifelong love of learning and critical thinking
- A system of distributed counseling where every student receives a web of social and emotional support
- The enlargement of life experience through empowering opportunities:
- Experience and analysis of the seed-to-plate process on the farm, in the classroom and in partnership with community, business and governmental organizations
- Every student learning a musical instrument
- Experiential Half-Day a Week for Spiral Growth: Urban Ecology in 9th grade, Service Learning in 10th grade, College Exploration in 11th grade, Career Internship in 12th grade
- A January Intensive for travel or immersion learning
Pedagogy and Philosophy
The farm experience will be used as a model and metaphor of an overall approach that conceives of learning as a cycle of growth:
Experience, observation and formation of Inquiry–> Critical Analysis (using the habits of mind, below) –> Action and Imagination –> Reflection
We want students to love what they’re learning and to use that love to push their mind to think rigorously, critically and imaginatively. To cultivate this as a way of being, it needs to become a habit. To make it a habit, it needs continual promotion and reinforcement; therefore every significant assignment students have will be assessed according to these habits of heart and mind:
Habit of Evidence: the ability to bring together relevant information to judge the credibility of sources, to find out for oneself.
- How do I know what I know? Did I support my views and points with examples and evidence?
Habit of Connection: the ability to look for patterns and ways things fit together in order to utilize diverse material to form new solutions.
- What else does this connect and apply to? Can I explain the context around this issue? How are we all connected, to each other and our environment?
Habit of Perspective: the ability to address questions from multiple viewpoints and to use a variety of ways to solve problems.
- How do others see the issue? Can I put myself in someone else’s shoes? Am I empathizing with others? What are alternate ways of looking at the issue? What do these differences generate?
Habit of Effective Communication: the ability to acknowledge accepted standards in any area in order to be understood and to understand others.
- Did I use my voice well? Did I present my work in ways that is clear to outside audiences? Does the presentation meet professional standards of the field? Did I pay attention to the details? Did I actively seek to listen and understand others?
Habit of Curiosity: the ability to cultivate attention, the desire to continually seek new knowledge and awareness.
- Did I consider the “why” and “how”? Did I seek further information about the situation and people around me? Did I express interest, or even passion? Was I willing to take a healthy risk, explore and try on a new experience? Did I persevere when the situation became challenging? Was I present to the possibilities of the situation?
Habit of Responsibility: the ability to demonstrate care through active participation and responsiveness.
- Did I take responsibility for others and myself? Was I prepared, punctual and engaged? Did I make healthy choices? Did I put my all into it, and ask for help if I needed it? Did I reflect honestly? Can I learn from my missteps and consider what I would do differently next time?
Habit of Creative Contribution: the ability to give to, sustain, support or enhance lives and life systems.
- What am I leaving behind? Is this sustainable? Did I add something beautiful, original, worthwhile?
Underlying all of our Habits is recognition of fundamental human dignity, expressed in the unwavering core values of Commitment to Peace, Commitment to Diversity and Commitment to Growth.
Structural Supports for Students
- A performance-based “proficiency” assessment system that encourages students to learn until they master the skills and knowledge that will truly prepare them for success in college and beyond
- An Advisory system that ensures that every student is well known as an individual by staff, and has an individual plan for success
- An extended school day that gives the opportunity for students to master rigorous academics as well as explore a rich array of elective and extracurricular opportunities, which include music instruction and a professional theater company in residence.
- Small sizes of classes and general student population, which will allow for a collaborative and personal learning environment
- Dedicated time to read each day so that reading, the single greatest leverage point of academia, becomes a habit
- Two-year academic institutes that allow a degree of student choice and greater ownership over a student’s own education as she develops. Each institute culminates with the student publicly presenting their achievements.
- An immersive overnight experience to initiate the school year, and a focused “January Term” project that lets students further develop skills of interest
Structural Support for Teachers
- Continual inquiry and development of our teaching practice collectively, in groups, and through support for individual goals
- A PD day every six weeks to review student achievement data and plan accordingly
- A digital portfolio system, Richer Picture, that lets teachers consider student work individually, by groups and across time
- Dedicated planning time over the summer, as well as inquiry Institutes from ISA
- Extra pay for extended hours from committed foundation support
Institute of Student Achievement; Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture; Improbable Theater; Slow Foods USA; FoodFight; Brooklyn College of Education; Third Street Settlement for Music Education; Coalition of Essential Schools; New York Standard Performance Consortium (pilot school); Mercy Corps: Action Center to End World Hunger.
We welcome and anticipate further collaborations with universities, businesses, and community-based organizations for the spiral growth experience of city, service, college and professional internships.
Present challenges in our environment and society, are, indeed, overwhelming. How will they come to care enough to tackle them? How will they have the skills to address them? By engaging students in an exploration of the food chain, with which they are intimately involved and on which they are dependent to live, students will learn to question, critically analyze, imagine sustainable alternatives, and learn to act accordingly.
Working with students from low-income communities, who may not feel they have control over their circumstances, The Harvest School will teach that work and dedication–to a project and to one’s development–to education, can change lives: their own, and those who live around them. In the garden, students will directly experience their power to bring things into being. As Wendell, a toughened janitor in Seedfolks, Paul Fleischman’s account of a multiethnic community garden in working-class Cleveland, reflects:
There’s plenty about my life I can’t change. Can’t bring the dead back to life on this earth. Can’t make the world loving and kind. Can’t change myself into a millionaire. But a patch of ground on this trashy lot—I can change that. Can change it big. Better to put my time into that than moaning about the other all day. That little grammar-school girl showed me that. (1997, p. 12)