Reflections by Tina Nilsen-Hodges
Founder and Principal

This month, four New Roots students and six staff members traveled to Boston to participate in a Teaching Our Cities gathering hosted by Boston Green Academy (BGA).

Like BGA, New Roots is one of five schools selected for this network of high schools that “teach our cities” by making the community our classroom with a focus on environmental stewardship and social justice. We were excited to spend two days with teachers and students with a passion for this shared mission, and to use our “community of practice” to build our capacity to expand and strengthen the learning experiences we offer students at New Roots.

All five schools — New Roots, BGA, Common Ground (CT), The Greene School (RI), and Connecticut River Academy (CT) — are working on developing a cohesive four-year sequence that integrates meaningful mission-driven fieldwork and projects while emphasizing college and career preparation and community engagement. During our time at BGA, we observed in classrooms, collaborated to generate ideas to deepen student engagement and math integration in our sustainability theme projects, and learned about the work that other schools are doing.

One of the most exciting and empowering aspects of this network is our emphasis on including students as leaders in this work. Our New Roots students Fenya Bartram, Dante Herbal, Laila Livingston, and Cian George were integral members of our New Roots team, contributing valuable insights and great ideas to our planning for student engagement and math integration, and sharing out to the larger group of 35-40 people with poise and confidence! Teachers and staff who attended — Audrey Southern, Matt O’Brien, Danielle Angie, Pinky Chandra, and Bill Strauss — all shared that their biggest inspiration from this experience was our students’ powerful contributions and those of student leaders from other schools. They were especially impressed by how well-versed that those students were in understanding their school’s four-year plan.

Action items for our school’s capacity-building project that emerged from our work at BGA include engaging our students, families, and other stakeholders in revisiting and revitalizing our schoolwide outcomes and learning about the four-year sequence of learning designed to realize those goals. I look forward to sharing our progress in future newsletters!

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