UNDER A MICROSCOPE, ALAMO HEIGHTS, TEXAS APPEARS TO REPRESENT SMALL TOWN AMERICA TO THE LETTER—a small, independent city stretching less than ten square miles and home to less than 16,000 people. But, when you zoom out, you’ll find America’s seventh-largest city, San Antonio, engulfing Alamo Heights from every direction—creating an unexpected mix of early 20th-century farmville and 21st-century cityscape.
At the center of this unique cultural landscape is Alamo Heights Independent School District (AHISD). With humble beginnings as a two-room schoolhouse, AHISD realized—in 2008—after a century of traditional practices, it was time for a change. After gathering community input—including from learners themselves—a brand new vision emerged that enlivened all involved. Now, learners at AHISD are delving into opportunities that were once unimaginable.
Take the story of 11-year-old AHISD learner, Paul Eguia. This determined young man set out on a journey to discover a way to get himself and his peers to make healthier food choices. His project, dubbed “The Green Lights Food Challenge,” brought the entire AHISD community together. With support all around, Paul invited his peers to try 37 different fruits and vegetables and commit to a physical fitness regimen to bring his health initiative full circle. Through his efforts, his community became conscious of their daily health habits.
Expanding beyond the work of a single learner, picture walking into a space where hyper-focused teens have lost all concept of time as they diligently design and build sophisticated rockets thattravel three-times faster than the speed of sound. Or, perhaps you happen upon a group of young learners lighting up the stage through the socially embedded design of Destination Imagination’s Improv Program. Better still, you discover a group of learners organizing a community-wide project to “foster a school environment where all students feel welcome and safe to be themselves.”
Just as you think, “these are all nice side projects,” you realize this is the central learning philosophy—ensure all learners are developing a healthy sense of self, seeking knowledge and understanding in all things, thinking critically and creatively, engaging socially and globally through communication and collaboration, and empowered with life-skills that can be carried far into the future. This personalized, relevant, and contextualized theory of learning comes to life in pleasantly unexpected ways every day at AHISD.
This is just the beginning. The evolution of AHISD is far from over and the leaders and learners refuse to rest on the laurels of what AHISD has accomplished so far. Until every child is able to maximize their full potential and feels at home in their learning environment, boundaries will continue to be pushed and innovation will continue to be sought.