Every Monday and Thursday afternoons, forty-one sixth and seventh grade students from four nearby middle schools arrive at our Bay Meadows campus to participate in Peninsula Bridge’s After School Program.
Designed to give a cohort of underserved, highly motivated students opportunities for enrichment outside their daily school experience, the After School Program is part of a twelve-year relationship with select students and is focused on increasing their long-term chances for success. Students are chosen by Peninsula Bridge as rising fifth graders, and they receive ongoing support through college graduation. They must meet a number of academic requirements in order to be recruited into the program.
For Nueva, this relationship is one facet of Mission II, bringing Nueva pedagogy to students outside our immediate community. According to Mike Peller, Assistant Head of Upper School for Student Life and Director of Global Initiatives, “Our secondary mission is to serve as a lab school and to develop strong, meaningful relationships that enable us to scale the impact of the work we do with our students.”
Mike added, “When a partnership works well, and this one does, both communities benefit.” He said that while building Nueva’s high school initially required an inward focus during rapid growth, we were ready to commit to Peninsula Bridge this year. We entered thoughtfully, deeply considering how we, as an organization, wanted to make a difference in the educational achievement gap, examining our cultural and community competencies that would allow us to confidently welcome and enrich the Bridge students’ experiences, and ensuring that we could realistically commit the facilities and time to making this effort successful. “These accomplishments have propelled us forward, and the turnout has been enormous. The number of Nueva student teaching assistants (TAs) involved in the program has tripled since the beginning of the year. They have brought their wealth of ideas, energy, and creativity, learned firsthand about leadership, and committed to something larger than themselves,” said Mike.
Randi Shafton and Jocelyn Swisher, Co-Executive Directors of Peninsula Bridge, are thrilled and thankful for the success of the program at Nueva. “We marvel daily at the mutual benefits of this rich and dynamic partnership,” said Randi.
Amanda Afshar, Peninsula Bridge Director of Middle School Programs, described the value received. “The leadership of Nueva Upper School Science Teacher Michaela Danek as co-coordinator, English Language Arts teacher, and student support, has shaped our students’ experiences. The Nueva Bay Meadows campus is a unique setting that truly allows our students to feel welcome and engaged, and the Nueva TAs are inspiring. They are actively involved in teaching, implementing, and modeling success for our students in small group and whole group settings.”
When the program began last fall, Bridge students were timid and uncertain of the new space, keeping to themselves at a few tables in the Café. Michaela described her initial goals. “It was important to me that the students felt welcome from the start, and since then we’ve watched them become more comfortable and stretch themselves out of their comfort zones.”
The program for these forty-one students consists of two main components: snack, homework and decompression time in the Nueva Café, and math and English language arts enrichment classes held in the Writing and Resource Center (WRC).
During the first session of their afternoon, students do homework, play games with a TA, or chat in small groups with friends. Weather permitting, students are on the lawn and in the garden outside the I-Lab, playing soccer or taking in the beauty of the outdoors. For the second half of the afternoon, they are in WRC classrooms, deepening math concepts they use at school, or further developing reading and writing skills so essential to their future success.
In her co-coordinator role, Michaela works directly with Peninsula Bridge Site Coordinator Felipe Ocampo, who is emphatic about the experience of Bridge students at Nueva. “Our teaching philosophy is project-based, so there is a natural fit with Nueva. Our students are academically focused, and the Nueva environment is the perfect place for them to flourish. It’s empowering for them to have the kinds of conversations that go on here, to see Nueva students both learning and creating, and to recognize that they too can be the masters of their own education.”
In addition to logistics such as scheduling and managing Peninsula Bridge students, Felipe’s other responsibility is to work with TAs, exploring ways to bring their ideas to life. One exciting development this year has been the piloting of sophomore Audrey C.’s Design Thinking curriculum as an elective. As an extension of her Nueva Quest project, Audrey designed six modules, each teaching a specific Design Thinking process and offering relevant design challenges.
“I chose to create Design Thinking curriculum for Quest because I have been passionate about Design Thinking ever since I came to Nueva as a seventh grader, and I’ve worked at Nueva’s Design Thinking Institutes helping to teach it to adults. Working with Peninsula Bridge students was the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about both teaching and curriculum design. I didn’t know my project would go in this direction, but it has been a tremendous opportunity to pilot the training modules.”
Because this elective was offered to Bridge students as added enrichment during homework time, students who signed up had to be current with their work in order to participate. Five students attended all six classes which culminated in a design challenge to solve a real-world problem that mattered to them.
One group decided their objective was to decrease pollution, ultimately making informational magnets to help eliminate confusion about what goes into each of the different recycling bins. Sitlali Z., a sixth grader who worked on this project, now thinks of herself as a designer and feels that she learned a lot from the experience. “At first when I heard it was a Design Thinking elective, I signed up because I like to be creative and I was curious to know what it was all about,” she said. “Sometimes the work was really hard and sometimes it was easy, but it was always fun.”
A creative writing elective designed by eleventh grader Adithi G. is almost ready to roll out to students. Felipe was thrilled to share the plans: “We are really excited about the opportunity to offer another elective, and Adithi’s curriculum is going to be wonderful!”
Michaela summed up the importance of this work, “It is exhilarating to be part of a relationship that supports more brilliant students having a chance to dive deeper into their learning. It is this kind of effort that brings additional significance to my work at Nueva, and is absolutely integral to my personal mission of being a teacher.”
More information about the After School Program is available at Peninsula Bridge.
March 31, 2017