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Blue School Specialists

Want to integrate specialists into daily school life?

A school with an inquiry-based approach to education that fosters creativity and inspires passion for learning. Blue School employs specialists to maximize students’ potential.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

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September 2017

About the innovation

What is Blue School Specialists?

Blue School is an independent school for 2-14 year olds located in New York City. Academic mastery, self- and social-intelligence alongside creative thinking are equally essential to the school's balanced approach to teaching and learning. Throughout the primary program, which stretches from kindergarten to fifth-grade, students spend their year invested in rich project work.

Each class undertakes a year-long project determined by the classroom teacher in collaboration with the Primary Program Division Director. The project is supported and extended through students' work with specialists in the fields of music, movement, drama, studio art, science, math, and STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Maths - an additional speciality with its own factor).

Specialists plan alongside teachers and with each other to ensure students have integrated experiences, as well as opportunities for curiosity, wonder, and understanding.

A child development specialist is also employed as part of the school’s learning team, supporting K-8th grade. They observe classroom dynamics as well as monitoring students who require extra support. The specialist communicates these observations to teachers and works with the teaching team to tailor instruction or materials to specific childhood development stages. The child development professional also works with teachers in liaison with parents and carers, where early intervention or additional support might be required. A consulting school psychologist also works to support students and their families.

Other specialists include: apre-primary staff team that has a dedicated materials specialist to support the learning of children aged 2-4. The materials specialist considers the interests and questions of the children and what materials they might need to further that interest, stimulate curiosity and support creativity and learning. The materials specialist also considers what materials the children are exposed to and how these can be used to develop motor skills and other skills in line with their development stage.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


The whole model is built on having a balanced experience of creative thinking and academic learning. Neither element is more important, allowing this kind of extended project work to live here in a very specific way.

Implementation steps

Careful Planning
Teachers carefully plan projects at the yearly Summer Teacher Institute in collaboration with specialists and their Division Director. Weekly meetings throughout the year keep classes on target to reach project goals.

Even before the school year begins, teachers carefully plan their year-long project according to the benchmarks for the grade. During the Summer Teacher Institute, teachers meet with their Division Director to refine their project as well as meet with the drama, movement, studio art, music, STEAM, science and math specialists. All specialists understand the goals of each class project and being to plan ways they can extend, deepen, and reinforce work in their domains.

Throughout they year, weekly meetings between teachers and the Division Director hone their class' inquiries. Teachers create a clear scope and sequence as well as benchmarks for each subject. They make sure to set goals for each project across the subject areas and thoughtful response scheduling throughout each division insures that students have optimal time with each specialist as well as with their classroom teachers.

Thoughtful Listening
Moment-to-moment assessment enables teachers to react and adapt to students' needs. Weekly meetings with parents, students, teachers, and administrators creates a community of communication.

Continual assessment through thoughtful listening helps teachers understand how each individual student learns and works. Documentation through photos, video, student work, and recorded conversations allows teachers to reflect on group and individual work as the class moves forward and deeper into the project.

An emphasis is placed on collegiality, openness, and collaboration. Teachers take time to talk with each other throughout the day and an open-door policy encourages teachers to enter other classrooms and see what new ideas are afoot.

Weekly meetings between Division Directors, teachers, specialists, parents, and students creates a community of communication. The community has a chance to see what each class is working on, make connections beween classes and students, and broaden thinking.

Flexibility and Responsiveness
Flexibility allows for responsive adaptation as the year progresses.

Perhaps most important of all is having the discipline to plan carefully, while also having the willingness to listen to the students and improvise accordingly. Projects change and grow based on the wonderings of children.

Sharing and Visibility
Performances, presentations, seminars, debates, gallery-walks, and open classroom events allow students, parents, and teachers to share in the outcome of projects and school-work.

Spring is the season for performances, presentations of learning, seminars, debates, gallery-walks, and open classroom events. The tangible outcomes of the year's work cover classroom walls and spill into hallways. Invitations are sent and doors are flung open to students, parents, teachers, and guests who come to see the multi-faceted work. For example, students studying the Middle Ages share handcrafted research books, gilded and calligraphed, alongside working trebuchets, next to scientific experiments involving bacteria (in relation to their study of the plague), while they invite an audience to see a choreographed Medieval battle and tableaux of characters they created.

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