It’s one word that many of us use in some form in our vocabulary throughout the day. Yet, what does the word actually mean? Or better yet, where does it come from? These are the types of questions Nueva students reflected on and tried to answer under the direction of instructor Dr. Pete Bowers.petebowersvisit

Dr. Bowers has been a resource to Nueva teachers over the last two years on structured word inquiry, a new approach to literacy instruction. The premise of this approach is that, while most of us were taught that English spelling is highly irregular and full of exceptions to be memorized, it is actually a highly ordered system filled with clues about meaning.

Following his presentation at the Innovative Learning Conference, Dr. Bowers spent an entire week in the classrooms of Nueva’s Hillsborough campus working with students on structured word inquiry.

“I believe that work we've begun doing with structured word inquiry is profound and revolutionary. I believe that it is relevant to educators who work in every discipline and with all age groups. I believe that it represents most accurately what we know about teaching and learning and enacts the core values held in our community. I am inspired about the learning we've started to do together, and I'm eager to hear how this work has already impacted the teaching in our classrooms,” noted Lower School Head Emily Kolatch in a reflection to faculty.

In conjunction with Emily Mitchell's grade 1 class, Nueva student questions for Dr. Bowers even helped to move the field of word study science forward after students began to question and compare homographs, words that share spelling and may or may not share meaning, prompting Pete to define what he now calls homographic, words that share spelling and meaning.

During his time with grade 4, students worked on using etymological references to find the root to words such as “human.” Using their critical thinking skills, students investigated the root and whether there was a historical connection between "human" and "humane." Unable to confirm data to support their hypotheses in the class, Dr. Bowers called on the author of Real Spelling, a comprehensive work on how English spelling actually works. Through much investigation, he and the students concluded “humus” is actually the root word and the two words (human and humane) are in fact connected!

“Through these lessons, students raise all these questions that I’ve thought of but haven’t yet resolved,” Dr. Bowers said. This is such a great work of science, he added.

Dr. Bowers has traveled across North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia teaching people, educators, and students about structured word study.

"I have never been to a school that has moved this far in one year in their understanding and application of these concepts in the classroom than at Nueva," Pete said, adding that he believes Nueva's already ingrained processes for critical thinking and investigation have helped their students and teachers embrace this new science more rapidly than most.

To explore examples of his work, please visit or the resource in which he built his understanding of structured word inquiry,


Gr4Play1213 1As art, as a branch of literature, the essence of a personality or the atmosphere of an event is recreated. This is the way children approach history with meaning. It has to become a spiritual experience. --Winifred Moore

At Nueva, there are many phrases that we bandy about quite often and assume that everyone knows what we mean. They are phrases that can, to be honest, sound pretty glib if you don't know the depth of thought that lies behind them: phrases such as integrated teaching, theme-based curricula, learning by doing and caring, and teaching the whole child. But what do they mean in practice, how do they affect the day-to-day educational life of your children, and why are they important?

Let's take the fourth grade musical as an example. As some of you may know, it is a Nueva tradition that the fourth graders create and perform a full-length musical play based on their curriculum for their year-end Culmination. What do we mean when we say that the students "create" the play? The students, not the teachers, write every single word of the script, the song lyrics, the melodies, the accompaniments, make their own costumes and props, plan the choreography, do much of the direction, and run the lights and sound. These are truly student-made productions.

MLKintroWhile we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day last week, the first grade classes have been learning about his legacy throughout the year. In the first few weeks of school, we read the book Martin’s Big Words to inspire a reverence for the power of words. We collected strong words that resonated for the first graders -- fairness, happiness, peace, friendship, kindness, and understanding. We also collected other important words of our own and created word walls at home. King’s words became a bridge to the power of ideas in our own reading and writing.

peterpicNueva's own Peter Koehler was awarded the Sarah D. Barder Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY). To receive the award, a student who was in a CTY program must nominate a teacher (not in the program) for excellence in inspiring gifted youth. Fifth grader Ethan Y. recommended him. Peter – who helps further lower school children's interests in mathematics -- worked with Ethan from first through fourth grade.

Peter was struck by the thought and effort it took on Ethan's part to nominate him. To recommend him, Ethan wrote an essay, which the teacher found great pleasure in reading.

"He wrote such a wonderful essay about me," Peter reflected while clearly moved.

In the award's 24 years of existence, 400 teachers and administrators have received the honor. In February, Peter will meet with other fellows at a conference in Las Vegas to be inducted and to study together. Congratulations to Peter, a lifelong learner and perfect match for the fellowship.

DSC09700“How many of you like animals?” Hands shot into the air. “Well I get to work with animals, and I want you to meet some today,” said alumnus Leor Friedman (Class of ’00) to Lower School students at the March 15 assembly.

Leor, an animal trainer hailing from Six Flags Great America in New Jersey, used an online connection through Skype to show students some of the animals. As Leor’s co-workers placed each animal in front of the camera for students to see, they exclaimed a collective “Hello!” Leor spoke briefly about each animal and then students asked him questions. He showed them three different macaws, a Flemish giant rabbit, and a baby otter, which Leor helped raise in his bathtub and taught how to swim!

“I guess I got my start with animals pretty early,” Leor reflected to the audience. As a Nueva first grader, Leor and a few peers accompanied their teacher to a farm to get duck eggs, which they hatched and cared for in their classroom. He went on to study biology at Occidental College and through various internships working with animals, discovered his passion for training. Leor also shared his animals with the Nueva community at the annual STEM Fair on March 17.



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