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New project-based learning school opens in August

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After two years of planning and organization and with a million dollar budget, a truly different school opens next month in Houston, Texas. Heritage Oaks School, located in the Heights, will be the first Houston school to offer a year-round project-based learning curriculum incorporated into a standard curriculum.

“Students will collaborate on a variety of projects in conjunction with teachers and volunteers to examine how math, science, language arts, social studies and other subjects fit together”, said Margaret McNutt, Head of School. Project-based learning also extends to specialty classes that will include music, arts, dance, filmmaking, physical education and drama. “The intent of this approach”, McNutt said, “is to teach students how to reason critically and think creatively”.

Heritage Oaks School is a private nonprofit school located at 2931 West 12th Street. It will initially be open to students in grades 5 and 6, and will add a new grade level each year through grade 12.

The school will run year-round , offering students 200 days of instruction compared to the traditional school calendar of 180 days. Heritage students will have the month of July off as well as traditional holidays and spring breaks.

Project-based learning is not a new concept. It was first used by the architecture guilds in Italy in the late 16th Century, spreading to German engineering schools in the 17th Century and finally to the United States at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the mid-19th Century.

In the early 20th Century, just after World War I, the great Austrian philosopher, educator, architect and social reformer, Rudolf Steiner, incorporated project-based learning into his curriculum for the students of employees working for the Waldorf-Astoria factory in Stuttgart, Germany. This curriculum became known as Waldorf education. Waldorf Schools now number well over 1000 schools located in 60 countries around the world. However, Heritage Oaks School is not associated with Waldorf Schools in any way.

“Heritage Oaks School will provide before and after school programs at additional costs”, said McNutt, “so if a family needs to drop a student off at 7 AM and if they can’t pick them up until 6 PM, we have someone here. We will have camps open to the community during the July break, but that is a time families can take summer vacations”.

Tuition aid is offered based on the financial needs and academic records of students. For more information, call 713-426-1848 or visit the website at www.heritageoaksschool.org

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Dick Kantenberger

National Gifted Education Writer, Examiner.com

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Houston, TX 77024-4026
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