Deepening Learning

Bosque’s academic mission states that “We design learning experiences that inspire students to explore challenging concepts and ideas and to be daring in their pursuit of deep understanding.” We have accomplished this through an intentionally designed schedule of 85-minute classes that allows time and space for students and their teachers to thoughtfully engage with content. This also allows our teachers to curate the most critical content that helps students advance their skills while making connections across disciplines and to the world around them. 

We are currently in year one of a three-year academic strategic plan that will result in three significant shifts during the 2021–22 academic year: the launching of immersive courses, the redesign of our current class schedule, and updated graduation requirements. These changes have been discussed for years at Bosque but were put on hold in recent years given the leadership transitions. The goal of these shifts will be to better serve today’s students with the core skills needed to thrive in college and in careers that may not even exist yet. 

The immersive courses will enable us to take the next big step into further deepening student learning and Challenging Education. We are inspired by the Colorado College Block Plan and the significant success of fellow progressive independent schools that have launched similar blocks (for two examples you can review the Intensives at Hawken School in Cleveland, OH, and the January Term at Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA). Our immersives will look slightly different in the middle and upper schools and designed to be developmentally appropriate. It is possible that middle schoolers will have monthly one-week immersive blocks while upper schoolers will likely have one annual three-week immersive block. Building up and out from Bosque’s foundational weeklong Winterim program, students will step out of the regular schedule of core classes and step into an immersive course, spending full days for one to three weeks with a group of peers and a team of teachers in deep learning on an interdisciplinary topic. These courses will allow for community and professional engagement, experiential and inquiry learning, cultural immersion and travel (we are committed to maintaining and strengthening our relationship with Colegia Reina Elizabeth, our longtime sister school in Mexico), and powerful learning outcomes. Some sample classes could include  “Civil and Social Rights Through an Exploration of the Criminal Justice System,” “Mountain Medicine,” “Mechanical Engineering,” “Entrepreneurial Studies,” “Public Health Through Community Partnerships,” “Marine Biology,” ''Architecture and Design,” etc.   The sky truly is the limit with what we can accomplish without typical schedule restrictions, and most courses will incur no additional fees. Upper School students will receive academic credit for these classes, which will include rigorous assessed learning that will be reflected on the high school transcript. As have other outstanding independent schools ahead of us, we will work with college admissions officers to ensure they understand and appreciate the depth, breadth, and rigor inherent in these courses. 

As we prepare for these exciting steps, we had to make one critical, and difficult, decision for next year. Winterim, which has been a core part of Bosque for 25 years and was designed with similar philosophical goals as the immersives, will end after this academic year. The Class of 2022 (next year’s juniors) will still have the option of a paid weeklong Winterim-type trip (we will create offerings based on the most popular current junior Winterim trips) or participation in the Medical Reserve Corps. MRC recruits will need to use this week to fulfill their CNM coursework, but all other students will have a two-week Spring Break in 2021. Recognizing that this may provide hardship for some families, we will offer a range of weeklong camps (including some free of charge) during that first week, traditionally known as Winterim. The following school year (2021–2022), all students will select from a range of immersive courses, which will likely include some exciting travel opportunities; Bosque’s vital MRC program will remain intact. Staffulty will use what would have been Winterim week in 2021 for rigorous professional development and course design time to prepare for the launch of the new changes in 2021–2022. For your planning purposes, we are finalizing the major dates for next year’s school calendar and plan to share this with parents and guardians by mid-February. 

I expect that there will likely be some mourning at the loss of Winterim, such a beloved element of Bosque’s identity, but this transition will enable us to recognize the philosophy and intent of the original Winterim in a much deeper and more meaningful way. I hope you are as excited as we are for the opportunities ahead for Bosque.

In summary, here is an overview of the years to come connected to the academic strategic plan:
  1. 2019–2020: A year of clarifying and exploring. We have already sent a team of academic leaders to visit and learn from Hawken and Westminster Schools and will be sending another team to visit three Bay Area schools in early March to continue our learning.  We are taking our learning and applying it to what will work best for Bosque. Our Academic Leadership Team will be devoting all of this year’s Winterim week to strategic planning work. I plan to report back this spring with more details that will emerge from this planning time. 
  2. 2020–2021: A year of design and preparation. We will be updating our graduation requirements, finalizing our schedule plan, and devoting significant professional development time (in what would have been Winterim week) to prepare for the shifts to come and to build and plan our first round of immersive courses. Any changes to graduation requirements will be adopted the following year in a staged way that will not negatively impact next year’s juniors. I will report back as we finalize details in this work. 
  3. 2021–2022: The launch year. Our new graduation requirements, schedule, and immersive courses will debut. We will be eager to solicit the feedback of students, parents, and staffulty on how the changes go, and we will make needed changes in future years.  

Bosque is at the forefront of what we know are model practices for teaching and learning in New Mexico and nationally. We can’t wait to lean further into our philosophy of Challenging Education to better serve our students and provide transformative learning opportunities through these important changes.

I will be offering two optional parent/guardian forums to answer any questions you may have about any of these changes (or anything else you are wondering about). These will be held on Wednesday, January 29 from 7:30–8:30 am and again that evening from 6:00–7:00 pm. Both meetings will occur in the Gerald and Betty Ford Library. If you are not able to attend either forum, please feel free to reach out directly with questions
     
All the best,

Jessie Barrie, PhD
Head of School
 
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