Academic Process

Our pure project-based learning (PBL) curriculum is a dynamic, student-led approach to education. Students propose and implement independent studies on topics of interest, conducting in-depth research, creating high-quality products, and presenting/defending their learning. 

Project-based Learning:

  • is rigorous—students plan and manage their own time and workload
  • values process as much as products
  • fosters inquisitive natures and hones critical thinking skills
  • develops transferable, applicable skills
  • facilitates awareness of interdisciplinary connections and interdependence among and to each other, the community, and our planet
  • cultivates understanding that collaboration with others and the larger community is an important part of being a contributing member of any group
  • integrates writing, speaking, and student-centered technology in all studies

Memorize a Bunch of Facts? No Way. Our Students Learn How to Learn.

Valley New School (VNS) provides an unusual environment in several ways. No separate classrooms, but a large, open, business-like space. No rows of desks, but pods of L-shaped workstations with a computer shared by each pair of students. No “teachers,” but an advisor assigned to each group of approximately 17 students. No bells, but time management placed essentially in the hands of individual students. No individual classes, but student-directed research projects.

At VNS, We Value Process as Much as Products.

The curricular focus of the VNS model is rooted in the concept that each person is his/her own best teacher. Instead of formal, subject-oriented classes, students develop their own learning experiences based on their interests and passions. Students work with parents and advisors to develop and complete comprehensive research projects (approximately 1000 hours of documented work per year). Completed projects are evaluated and credit is granted based on the quality and breadth of each student’s work.

We’re Opening Doors by Opening Minds.

The educational goals at VNS center on the empowerment of the entire school community. Students, staff, and parents are encouraged to take responsibility and ownership of the learning model. Students become independent, self-motivated, lifelong learners as they develop their individual talents. Numerous opportunities for community involvement and connection nurture the ethic of community responsibility as students prepare to continue their educational paths.

Valley New School offers 68 students in grades 7-12 the opportunity to learn in an integrated, project-based environment. VNS provides unprecedented access to technology, an active focus on the community, and a student-advisor ratio of 17 to 1. The school has been designated as a national “lab school” for project-based learning by the Gates-EdVisions organization and, as such, provides an example and leadership in best practices for this learning model.