The story had all the makings of a Hollywood movie: a secret mission, an interview with the KGB, and the successful rescue of more than 2 million persecuted people. This was the true story shared by Adele and Joel Sandberg at an upper school Judaism Club event on the last Friday in October.
The Nueva Upper School reinvents the high school experience as four years of inquiry-based learning, collaboration, and self-discovery.
A Nueva education develops creative, resilient, thoughtful leaders and collaborators who are ready to solve problems and have an impact on the world.
The Nueva Way at the Upper School
At the Nueva Upper School, the students’ experience — their courses, interests, and passions — is at the center of everything we do. We nourish their love of learning by providing each student unparalleled opportunity to chart their own pathway through high school. With support from advisors, students select from more than 100 electives that satisfy graduation requirements and allow them to dive deeply into exciting subjects.
Embracing the interconnectivity of the world, teachers build courses with global relevance and connections across academic disciplines. Assignments center around authentic, real-world challenges, and are flexibly structured to allow students to be creative and incorporate their personal interests. Surrounded by a community dedicated to intellectual pursuits, collaborative projects are dynamic and thought-provoking. From examining historical trends through unique lenses to writing code for mathematical processes, Nueva students are capable, adaptable, interdisciplinary thinkers.
Nueva Quest, the in-depth pursuit of a field of study during each year of Upper School, is another way students are empowered to follow their boundless curiosity. Students are mentored by experts, feel the joy of creating something from nothing or delving into an area of interest, and practice Design Thinking skills that will serve them well into the future.
Opportunities for personal growth, collaboration, and exploration abound beyond the classroom as students participate in extensive co- and extracurricular opportunities. Advisories, activities and clubs, rich arts offerings, and athletic programs are an important part of every student’s Nueva experience.
"Nueva has been incorporated into my vocabulary not just as a proper noun, but also as an adjective. It refers to both a community and a worldview — unbridled intellectual energy, an ardent desire for knowledge, and endless efforts to achieve it."
Our Culture of Kindness
Nueva’s 50-year history of social-emotional learning (SEL) and commitment to developing students’ social and emotional acuity play an essential role in the learning atmosphere of trust, community, and inclusion at the Upper School. Nueva’s environment of caring and layered system of support ensures each student feels truly seen, heard, cared for, and valued. With formal training in SEL, faculty make themselves available for questions and conversation, supporting students in self-reflection, observation, inquiry, and the development of attitudes, behaviors, and skills that will serve them and their communities well into adulthood.
Each year during pre-term, the Upper School community welcomes and integrates new and returning students through grade-specific fall orientation trips. These camping retreats in the California wilderness give students time and space to build relationships with faculty and classmates, and give them shared experiences to bring back to campus.
Design Thinking and Engineering
Nueva’s Upper School students quickly become adept at Design Thinking process, practices, and mindset. Extensive offerings in Design Thinking, engineering, computer science build skills through human-centered design challenges, ensuring all students have hands-on experience with the Design Thinking process and the ability to use computational thinking and problem-solving. Students also become confident, safe, and responsible at creating with the vast array of tools available in the I-Lab.
A wide array of electives enables students to dive deeply. Examples include Design Engineering for Social Good, Machine Learning, Engineering and Fabrication Workshop, and many more, all of which are taught using the Nueva Way philosophy emphasizing real-world context for learning.
Across the classes, students identify needs, prototype, obtain feedback, and create and test solutions, while gaining both knowledge and skills along the way. With experience, students have ready access to the Design Thinking tools: it ceases to be “a process” and becomes the way they think. They are empowered changemakers, prepared for a future where resilience is key and translating ideas into reality is essential.
We prepare Nueva students to succeed in their interconnected world. They are encouraged to use Design Thinking skills to learn about the world through active participation, identifying situations where they can make positive changes and developing the personal and collaborative tools to take action. Students bring their SEL skills to bear as they engage with different cultures and diverse perspectives.
School trips, from nearby Oakland to countries around the world, provide immersive, inspiring learning experiences. Community service learning is woven into the curriculum and given special focus through service learning days, projects, and events.
Through our cross-disciplinary focus on environmental learning, we’re developing strong leaders who will build a more sustainable future.
The Nueva Internship Program places our students in one- to eight-week engagements with more than 50 different Bay Area organizations spanning the fields of technology, research, politics, medicine, publishing, fine arts, and more.
We believe that applying to college should be a personal journey to the best fit, not a process to fear. Nueva’s college counseling team works with all students, starting in their junior year, setting each on an individual path of self-reflection, dreaming, and strategic planning. We help students think about who they are, who they want to become, and map the best way to get there.
Joyful and vigorous study is at the heart of the Nueva experience. We sat down with 12th grade dean, upper school history teacher, and Nueva alumnus ’05 Brian Cropper for a conversation about the inspiration for his newest class and his role as 12th grade dean. Brian also shares how his students and colleagues inspire him every day.
One of the goals Andrew Alexander has for himself when he teaches his upper-school mathematics courses is to bring joy into the classroom. To launch the geometry unit in his Math 1 class, Andrew came up with a creative way to infuse joy and wonder into the learning: he constructed a six-foot tall compass and an accompanying 12-foot long straight edge.
The invitation for Wednesday’s roundtable event “Divestment: The Million Dollar Question” noted, “In response to student activism, the Nueva Endowment Committee is considering the divestment of its holdings in fossil fuel companies for the first time.”
This was very exciting news for students because for at least the past four-to-five years, the student-run Nueva Divestment Team has been working to convince the Nueva Endowment Committee of the need to divest.
What does a community look like? What does it take to build a community and what are the difficulties that might arise? These questions serve as the foundation of the new curriculum in ninth-grade Science of Mind (SOM). Developed by Director of Social Justice and Equity Alegria Barclay, the revamped curriculum focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Beloved Community. The course is very much about antiracism, Alegria said, and antiracism is woven into all aspects of the course.
A new addition to the upper school schedule this year is a block for special programming on Fridays. For the first in a series of special guest speakers, Dean of Student Life Hillary Freeman invited Black Lives Matter activist and local Bay Area native Kenan Moos to speak. In a conversation moderated by student council equity and inclusion rep Fiona T. ’22, Kenan shared not only his background and life experiences, but also how he became an activist and how Nueva students can step up to take action.
The upper school student council (colloquially known as STUCO) is a group of elected upper school students who work together to support the relationship between the student body and the Nueva administration. This year’s elected co-leads of STUCO are Willow T.C.Y. ‘21 and Andrew C. ‘22 sat down to discuss their backgrounds, their hopes for their roles, and how remote learning changes their priorities.
By Anouschka B. '22: This year’s new tenth-grade biology project—“Deep Dive”—is certainly one for the history books, with students creating projects ranging from desserts filled with clouds of chocolate mousse and oozing raspberry coulis to Zoom-made music videos.
Quest, a signature Nueva program in the Upper School, is a journey of self-discovery, perseverance, and growth as students explore their own paths to purpose. This year, with all routines thoroughly disrupted, we had an opportunity to innovate how to celebrate Quest.