Letter from Head of School

NH School of Applied Learning, A New Kind of School

Often when parents are on the brink of their child’s advancement into middle school, they have already begun to see signs of change in their child, fondly referred to as pre-adolescence. For many parents this can be a stage in which brings about a bit of anxiety, indeed – both excitement and fear. Adolescence represents significant changes for children across every developmental area: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive. How they manage through these changes varies by child and their educational setting can influence how the student navigates through this tumultuous stage of life.

At NHSAL, we’ve designed our school specifically for the adolescent, creating an environment in which their learning is student-driven based upon their interests and passions. By guiding students to develop their own passions and interests, they are inspired to care about their learning and draw parallels to their world. At NHSAL, we embrace a modern approach to learning where students embark upon discovery by “doing”. When students use their hands and when they are creating, they are engaged. When they can see, touch, show, explain and use physical results of their efforts, they know they’ve accomplished something of value.

Students are in the driver seat, allowing them to learn the self-confidence, research skills, inter-personal facility and hands-on aptitude that will serve them not only into the next phases of their academic endeavors, but in life in general. In addition to promoting deeper learning of academic concepts, Applied Learning encourages new ways of thinking and behaving. Generically compared, students are rule-bound and submissive in more traditional school settings; whereas Applied Learning environments promote confident and flexible students who enjoy exercising initiative.

Student-directed and inquiry-based learning help students to learn in a changing world. Empowering students to steer their learning maximizes and enhances their natural creativity. Often by middle school, academic “leveling” emerges and students are “bucketed” based upon their ability to demonstrate knowledge acquisition, primarily through testing. This categorization will begin to impact their view of academic options for high school, college, and even career choices. Traditional settings separate creativity and vocational trades from academics, creating separate and distinct tracts.

True brilliance, however, leverages both intellect and creativity. Throughout history, art and science, craft and engineering, analytical thinking, and personal expression have coexisted in communities, industry, culture, commerce, academia, and in the heads of creative people. Leonardo DaVinci was the quintessential Renaissance man. He was a creative inventor, artist, sculptor, architect, engineer, musician, mathematician and anatomist who explored numerous other fields as well. Interdisciplinary learning has been hailed by renowned educational experts, Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Dewey, Gilbert, including the more recent Seymour Papert.

Appreciating the intensity of the cognitive, physical, social and motivational changes that take place in young people in middle school, asks us to think about the long term learning benefits that come from experiencing successful Applied Learning at this critical time of profound change. At NHSAL, it is our mission for students to reach their fullest potential.

I welcome you to explore NH School of Applied Learning for your child.


Debra A. Repoza-Hogan
Head of School
Southern NH Education Center

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