Minnesota New Country School
MNCS has offered so much liberation and opportunity for our children and their education as it applies to real life. We feel so fortunate to be a part of this organization!
FACTS & FIGURES
Teacher-Powered School in Minnesota
Average years of service by MNCS employees
Average years of service by MNCS licensed staff
Special education population
Free and reduced lunch
Transportation provided to 10+ surrounding communities
Learners who strongly agreed or agreed that staff treat them with respect (per student year-end survey)
WHEN THE BRAIN TRUST BEHIND MINNESOTA NEW COUNTRY SCHOOL (MNCS) got together in the early 90’s, they all knew the bell system had to go. But, more importantly, they wondered how they could design a learning environment that eliminated the primary feelings of frustration and annoyance their children so commonly associated with learning.
However, MNCS leaders didn’t find the feeling of frustration to be all negative. In fact, their senior project guidelines now state the project should “excite you a lot, and maybe scare you a little. If it does not, then you’re not choosing a great topic.” When a learner is challenged, frustrations are bound to show up—a gateway to the exceptional development of learner agency. However, when frustration was a result of limitation, they believed a new conversation was needed.
That new conversation led to the radical design of MNCS, which opened its doors in 1993. Without bells, hallways, classes, or academic grades, this learner-centered environment was ready to turn heads. Personalized, relevant, and contextualized learning was going to be the foundation of their new learner-centered model.
If a learner had a burning passion for the complexities of wartime strategy and creative writing, she would be invited to design a project that would take those passions to new heights. She could first explore the history of war and discover what time period or singular event is of greatest interest. In this discovery, she might craft a creative story where the great war generals of the past like Alexander the Great, George S. Patton, and Napoléon all attend a war strategy conference to talk shop and trade secrets.
Regardless of how the project shapes up, the learner owns it—and the entire discovery process—with guidance from an advisor. As the learner moves along her journey, the advisor back-maps her tasks to the state-required standards. And, if any boxes go unchecked, a minimal shift can be made without disrupting the motivation of the learner. Besides, the knowledge, skills, and dispositions cultivated through this design go above and beyond anything the state determines as “proficient.”
MNCS has 25 years of experience leading learner-centered design and is accelerating evermore to ensure their young people are ready to live into a future as lifelong learners.
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