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Nurturing Wisdom Academy encourages students to learn based on interests

HINSDALE – A toothpick on its own is just a toothpick, but putting several together can form a bridge, just like a word on its own has little meaning, but a series of well placed words can form a riveting story.

The idea is to foster creativity and to look at what something can be instead of what it is. Nurturing Wisdom Academy (NWA), a private school in Hinsdale serving grades 3 to 9, embodies just that as the small classroom sizes encourage learning core subject skills, creativity and teaching students to be independent.

For the second year, NWA will offer a 75-minute class to every student, each day, in which students make independent projects based on their interests and desire to learn.

“These are anything from hands-on engineering projects, like building a tooth-pick bridge, or a hydraulic machine, to writing a blog to writing a character development project,” said Vice President Amanda Vogel. “They can be anything.”

Vogel said each student chooses from a menu of about 75 projects each term, which is seven to eight weeks, and students will choose three to five projects to complete.

At the end of the school year, kids will have completed about 15 projects.

One of the projects done last year was by her daughter who was in second grade as a pilot student. Her daughter chose to write posts for the Bedtime Math blog, which is a website where a mom writes night time math problems.

Vogel said her daughter did about 15 to 18 of these posts and sent them in not expecting much, but one of her posts ended up getting featured on the website.

“She got a T-shirt and she wears it everywhere,” Vogel said. “She’s just really into it.”

It’s no secret how much strain is put on public schools today to perform well on standardized tests. Standardized tests drive funding and without funding creative programs can be cut, which includes art and music. That’s not the case, though, at NWA.

“The standardized tests would never drive our curriculum,” she said. “Our kids do well on those, and we do use standardized tests just to make sure, because we’re trying to teach beyond what’s on those tests, not to what’s on those tests.”

In August 2012, NWA first opened its doors at 125 South Vine St. and opened this year on Aug. 20 for the first day of school.

“It’s really exciting to have a full year behind us and kind of have the basics figured out around here,” she said.

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