NBFA’s Journey

Dear NBFA Community,

As many of you know, NBFA’s journey started in a few rented classrooms on the East Side of Bridgeport. Our founders shared a vision to positively impact the life outcomes of Bridgeport children by providing a top notch education in a nurturing environment that makes kids feel safe. Fast forward 15 academic years and NBFA is bursting at the seams of its own South Side building with plans to expand. Over the years, we have worked hard to provide children with a meaningful education and social emotional learning (SEL) supports to guarantee long-term success. We do this because we know there’s a direct connection to feelings and learning.

In my first ever blog post on “NBFA: The Journey,” I will address some questions about our final stage of NBFA’s SEL transformation – implementing a progressive education model with emotionally responsive practice

Many of you ask what it means to be a progressive school. Progressive education is experience-based, interdisciplinary, and collaborative. The emphasis is on educating the whole child—the entire emotional, social, physical, and intellectual being – while valuing and reinforcing the role each student’s own experiences play in their learning.

This is practiced at NBFA in a number of ways. First, we try as often as possible to let students have choice in their education. A good example of this came from Mrs. Strong’s 5th grade class last week. Before entering into a discussion of composting, the teacher asked the students quite simply if they’d like to have the conversation at their desks or on the carpet. The carpet was voted in and a productive discussion about recycling food scraps was had.

Another way the progressive model plays out is through experienced-based learning. This can happen in the classroom as students examine rocks as part of a geology lesson. Or, it occurs outside as students go to the local park to choose sticks both for a Native American art project and for a nature lesson. Or, students learn about physiology by doing agility exercises with the new PE teacher, Ms. Tema. There are so many exciting ways to make learning experiential and engaging, as well as interdisciplinary.

A final point I want to make about progressive learning has to do with collaboration. We at NBFA are learning just how important it is for everyone to work together – students, teachers, parents, staff, leadership, the community. We think it’s so important that we changed the “C” in “STRETCH” from “conscientious” to “collaboration.” With a shortened regular school day for children, teachers have two hours to collaborate and plan rich, engaging content so that students are getting the best education possible. While teachers plan, most NBFA students engage in our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts & math) and sports-based after school program. The last thing I want to touch upon is emotionally responsive practice. Last year, I got my Master of Science in Education degree from the Bank Street College of Education in New York. Bank Street affirmed what we had come to know at NBFA – that emotions matter. The bottom line is that happy, affirmed, respected children who feel safe are far more likely to focus on what’s happening in their classrooms and retain knowledge. Bank Street also confirmed that schools like ours, with high poverty-related issues and stressors, need a different perspective to reach our kids.  As such, we engaged Bank Street to provide professional development to the whole school this year and last and to provide ongoing coaching throughout 2016-2017.  Bank Street is teaching us the science behind techniques to address student issues or obstacles that may impede learning. Through these techniques, teachers and staff are able to build stronger relationships with students and help them grow not only academically but socially and emotionally so they can flourish.

I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. The best way to reach me is via email at rpswagerty@nbfacademy.org. I look forward to working with you…

For Our Kids,

Mrs. Swagerty