The Coolest School in America
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2005
Georgiean Benson, an Illinois NBCT, reviews a book about the Minnesota New Country School, a project with fewer than 125 students, no classrooms, and no textbooks.
Citation: Enloe, W., Newell, R. & Thomas, D. (Eds.). (2005). The coolest school in America. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Education (now Rowman & Littlefield).
Edited by: Doug Thomas, Walter Enloe, Ron Newell
2005 (157 pages, paperback)
Reviewed by Georgiean Benson
Middle School Science, NBCT
The "coolest" school is the Minnesota New Country School, which
was selected by Gates Foundation as a model to be replicated
in America. Established in 1994,the high school of fewer than
125 students is project based with no classrooms, no bells,
and no textbooks.
This book is comprised of three sections of essays written by people
involved with the research, planning, development and experiences
at the school. Section One contains essays on the founding
and development of MNCS, discussing the school's goals of
facilitating and guiding the acquisition of knowledge, as
opposed to delivering a curriculum. Section Two contains essays
on building the learning community through democratic circles,
project based learning, and place-based learning. The final
part of the book has essays from students, graduates, parents,
and teachers about the results of the learning communities.
In the first essay, Doug Thomas explains about the discussions
that led to the formation of the school. It reminded me
of discussions I have had with other teachers at my school
and online discussions about how great it would be to form
our own school with teachers in charge. Another essay was
on putting ideas to work including the six elements that
most excite and motivate students, which are having choices,
collaborating, producing something, being useful to others,
reflecting and refining, and going beyond the school building.
In this school, the education was student centered with long-term
projects where students were asked to accomplish standards
and skills in order to graduate. Some students flourished
while others did not develop the self-discipline that was
needed to succeed. Research surveys completed after nine
years of the project-based learning summarized that students
compared favorably with their peers on Minnesota Basic Standards
Test and outscored them on language measures.
This book discussed the positives and negatives of this school
environment. I wanted to find out more about the kinds of
projects and how the day was organized. The ideas expressed
in the book interested me enough to want to visit the school
to see how it works. This book is short and an easy read with
interesting ideas on school environment.