At Northstar, students learn in different ways, in different places and from different people, including the teacher, peers, community members and themselves. We believe that education should not be about memorizing facts, but about nurturing the curiosity of learners and guiding the development of the skills needed to pursue and learn about any interest. It is our job as educators to help students ask questions and search for the answers wherever they might be rather than simply providing answers, and to ensure we do not deny students the opportunity to explore and reflect. Learning is a complex process that demands a lot of hard mental work. But it is also a fun and satisfying process, and healthy habits of learning are at the core of the Northstar Philosophy of Learning.
In traditional education, learning is confined to the four walls of a classroom, and often students struggle to transfer the concepts they study at school to the context of their real lives. At Northstar we understand that learning can happen anywhere at any time. Whether or not learning takes place largely comes down to attention – are students paying attention to their surroundings, asking questions to understand what’s going on and consciously making connections to other pieces of knowledge to deepen their understanding of the world? At Northstar we help students pay attention to, and learn from, their surroundings by applying concepts in a real context outside the classroom. Learning by doing – or experiential learning – not only increases student motivation to ask questions and reflect, it also serves to bridge the gap between school and life. At Northstar we believe that for education to be effective, it must be meaningful and learning must thus always be relevant to students’ lives.
Traditional education places the teacher in the center of student learning, emphasizing his or her role as transmitter of knowledge through lectures. While the teacher is absolutely imperative, educators at Northstar understand that some of the most effective ways of learning require a different set-up than the lecture format used in a traditional classroom. In order for students to understand concepts and ideas, and form new ones, they must explore them in conversation with others, and reflect on them in groups and individually. At Northstar we thus alternative between lectures, group work and individual reflection. Peer-to-peer group learning helps students deepen their understanding by sharing knowledge, discussing and evaluating evidence, listening to other perspectives and demonstrating their understanding by explaining concepts to others. In peer-to-peer learning, the educator’s role is more that of a facilitator, asking questions to nudge students in the right direction but allowing them to discover new insight and reach conclusions on their own.