School for Tomorrow, a non-traditional private school based in Rockville, Md., will open a Reston location in late August for students in grades 6-12.
The school has signed a lease for 11480 Sunset Hills Rd., about a half-mile from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. It aims to aims between 10 and 40 registered students by its the time it opens its doors, said Reston Head of School Laura DeLima.
Once enrolled, students won’t be taking regimented classes like trigonometry or civics, says DeLima. Instead, they’ll learn about “conceptual” subjects that stress an array of skills and projects instead of memorizing facts and formulas.
“It’s very heavy on concepts and writing skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and creativity,” says DeLima. “But it also has a broad range of disciplines that we encourage like geography, psychology, and neuroscience.”
At the beginning of each trimester, School for Tomorrow students work with teachers to develop a customized learning plan. Though they have growth goals to achieve, those goals are developed by what a student is interested in doing or achieving. And they’re not entirely academic in nature. For example, a student might strive to grow emotionally in some way.
“We include emotional, social, and physical wellbeing and hold them to be as important as academic growth,” DeLima says. “Students are not only assessed on an academic basis, but also in their growth on things like resilience and self-esteem.”
That’s not to say students won’t be learning some of the usual textbook. Literature, economics, politics, culture, and math are all still in the school’s curriculum. What’s different is the way in which students learn those subjects, says DeLima.
For instance, a typical assignment might have students planning an environmentally friendly utopian city or working through problem-based courses. Students are free to work through problems however they see fit, so long as it meets the course goal. Along the way, they’re free to take breaks, eat lunch when they please, and collaborate openly.
That freedom is also part of the natural learning process, says DeLima.
“It’s much more engaging that way,” she says. “The reality of life is that we move between kinds of thinking all the time.”
School for Tomorrow was founded in 2009, and its Rockville location now has more than 80 registered students. And DeLima says the school is growing fast. She estimates the Reston location could hit 100 students by 2020.
Annual tuition for the school is $32,500, but financial aid will be offered on a case-by-case basis, the school says. The school day runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., which SFT says it more aligned with the sleep clock of teenagers.
The school will host an informational panel of current students, parents, and teachers at the new Reston location on April 26 at 5 p.m.