Olivia Gall ’22 and Gabriel Huang ’22 walked to class on a warm May day, but it wasn’t like usual.
The walk took them not down a hallway at The Hun School of Princeton, but out to downtown Princeton to explore the inner workings of the Princeton Museum as part of NextMetro’s Museum of Possibilities course.
“I’ve liked how we’ve really used our environment around us,” said Gabriel. “My group has been to New York and we’ve been to Princeton. We’re taking advantage of our location. It doesn’t really feel like a class as much because we’re traveling a lot, but we learn the same as we would in a class. It’s just going to a different setting for it.”
NextMetro is part of NextTerm, The Hun School’s ground-breaking program initiated this year to bring freshmen, sophomores, and juniors a unique learning experience that connects them to the world. While sophomores and juniors select their area of study, the freshman class was divided and placed into eight small groups, each studying an element of community.
Community is a prominent theme throughout the freshman experience at Hun, emphasized in a common seminar class. NextMetro was designed as a real-world, experiential extension of that.
“Urban Design” explores designing community space; “History of Immigration” focuses on the how different backgrounds of members benefit their community; “Museum of Possibilities” looks at aspects of a successful museum and their place in community; “A Healthy Community” studies the impact of recreation and fitness on a community; “Appreciate Your Environment” opens the door to the interaction between living and non-living components in a community’s environment; “Technology as a Tool to Support Education” takes students into new ways to educate in a community; and “A Seat at the Table” explores restaurants as one sector of business in a community. Next year will offer a “Moving Towards Localism” course to focus on the duties of government on a community.
“It’s really nice to have these last three weeks, apply what we’ve learned in school this year and bring it to the real world,” said Gabriel. “It also helps us learn about leadership and collaboration and teamwork.”
Freshmen spent the first two days of the NextMetro term in team-building activities within their groups. They worked together to understand community, defined leadership roles, and began to explore the strengths of each group member. The time and work gave each group a foundation, before immersing them in the coursework.
“You learn so much more when you’re out than when you’re lectured,” said Olivia. “I was looking forward to meeting new kids and getting out of the classroom, experiencing the hands-on learning.”
Every NextTerm course is for credit and requires a culminating project-based assessment. NextMetro groups will present a final project that summarizes their experience. For example, the museum group will be producing their own exhibit. They have visited museums with an eye on the different jobs required, the design of displays, how and what information is presented effectively, and what draws visitors. The projects will then be presented to professionals in the field.
“Now that I know what goes into it – everything from the color of walls, and heights, everything – now that I’m in it and learning about it, I’m excited about creating the final product,” said Olivia. “I want it to be good and want it to be something to be proud of.”
The history group will add their own immigration story to a digital exhibit for the Tenement Museum in New York City. The restaurant group will come up with their own business plan. The health and fitness group will design a brochure with community fitness goals.
“The ideal come-away is two-fold,” said Program Director Ms. Radanovic. “First, our students will get off campus and actually experience the eight components of community. And second, they will produce something and in some way give something back to the community, both through their course work and throughout their lives.”
Course projects will be presented at a school-wide expo on June 4th - 5th. The presentations are open to The Hun School Community and the many professionals that have participated in NextTerm coursework.
“I’m glad I got placed in it,” said Olivia. “I got to learn about something I wouldn’t normally choose.”