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Not Waiting for Tomorrow

By Allison Gaines Pell
How a visit to an innovation school founded by MIT graduates inspired a new Wheeler partnership.


Upon entering the NuVu Innovation School in Cambridge, founded by graduates of MIT, you can feel that something is different. On the day that I visited with several faculty members, administrators and trustees, we observed students making driverless cars, exploring hydroponics, making eco-friendly building materials from mushrooms, designing a playground with students across the world over video chat that would be built in Syria, to mention just a few. The room hummed, not only with the sounds of mechanics and art-making but with the sound of conversation and collaboration, of hard work, feedback and revision, of inspiration and exhilaration. The level of engagement was sky high; the students, ages 13-18, were busy creating, innovating, testing and tweaking at what seemed like the speed of light. We could all sense that there was something very
Wheeler about the whole endeavor. When we spoke to the students, our hunches were confirmed: engaged, bright, powerfully energetic, these young people had ideas about how their impact would make change, but they were also self-reflective about their experiences with achievement, failure, resilience, and risk-taking. Take a look at this video, What is NuVu? to get a sense of the energy for yourself.

Months later, I am very proud and thrilled to share with you that Wheeler has launched a partnership with NuVu called the NuVuX Studio Term. Studio Term will offer a special program for Wheeler’s Upper School students who would like an immersive dive into transdisciplinary learning. NuVu is a school — and the Studio Term will be a partnership — in which students explore real-world topics, both locally and globally, and learn how to use the design process to solve complex challenges using creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. As with our legendary Aerie approach to learning, students in the Studio Term will work with coaches, faculty members, and experts in their area of expertise and receive feedback and revision along the way. Starting fall of 2019 at Wheeler, a pilot group of Upper School students will be able to choose to participate in a series of “studios” which will be developed in a unique collaboration between Wheeler and the team at NuVu. Each studio will center on a large-scale problem and a “hands-on-minds-on” project-based approach to solution-seeking that will have an impact on the community or world. Custom experiences are in development with a group of Wheeler faculty and the NuVu team over this fall, and there are still many details that are under consideration that we will share with students when course selection comes around in the winter. However, a few recent examples from NuVu’s Cambridge location include:

You can also watch videos about NuVu’s approach and projects here:

This is just one of the exciting new explorations that have emerged from our campus-wide Strategic Design process, which was developed to challenge us to continue to enrich our educational program to best prepare and engage Wheeler students for the complex questions of the world they will inherit. Already, you have heard about Cityside, an enhancement of the 8th-grade curriculum focused on understanding the dynamics, the people, and the challenges of our City of Providence. You have also heard about Forest Fridays, a weekly exploration at the Wheeler Farm for our Early Childhood program.

It’s the Wheeler way: when our faculty members have ideas that will move us closer to relevant, meaningful, transformative, and rigorous experiences for our students, we act. Not for 5 years from now, for right now. This is the privilege and responsibility of working at Wheeler. We are excited to share these plans with you and even more, we cannot wait to see what our students achieve as part of their experience in NuVuX Studio Term.
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216 Hope Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02906-2246
Phone: (401) 421-8100
FAX: (401) 751-7674

Founded 1889

The Wheeler School is an independent coeducational college preparatory day school for Nursery, Pre-K, K-Grade 12 serving Providence, RI, Greater Providence and Greater Boston. The Hamilton School welcomes Grades 1-8 with language-based learning differences.