The Story of City Neighbors High School
In June of 2014, City Neighbors High School graduated its first senior class. On a Saturday morning at Morgan State University, 81 graduates were invited to the stage by their Pod advisors to accept their diplomas. Despite the large and formal setting, the day was intimate, emotional, individualized, and connected. On that day, the work of City Neighbors High School – that started six years ago as an embryonic idea – really came to fruition in a powerful way.
We set out to re-define high school here in Baltimore City, to create a learning and physical environment that made us all re-consider school, and to offer a truly progressive option for the high school students and families of Baltimore City. We designed our school based on the question, “What would it take for every student to be Known, Loved and Inspired?” This call shaped our teaching practice, our structure, our rituals, our environment and our staffing.
Built on the tradition of our other two City Neighbors K-8 schools, City Neighbors High School was born as a project-based, arts integrated, workshop-based school. Students immerse themselves in long-term, in-depth project studies to deepen the breadth and scope of their thinking and learning. To both nurture and strengthen the creativity and critical thinking of students, we infuse the arts (visual arts, music, poetry, puppetry, photography, movement, and almost any other art one could think of) into our classrooms to teach both the art form and the content or skill. To support both of these approaches and what we know about great teaching and learning, our classrooms became workshops – with the workshop model anchoring our approach and work. With these three anchoring approaches, our classrooms became vibrant places were student voices are heard, collaboration is evident, and students are engaged in the work, the thinking and learning in active ways.
Anchoring our day, our work and our school, is our Pod model. For ninety minutes each day, students are part of a Pod group with an advisor who follows them over their four years. With a dedicated room that includes office desks for students, a living room area, and a kitchen, students use Pod time to connect with each other, work on navigating the issues of high school, prepare for presentations of learning and other challenges, and learning to prioritize and accomplish work over an extended period of focused time. Pod is an educational safety net for students. It is also the place where they are most known, loved and inspired - by an adult and by the group of 16 who are part of their Pod.
Over these first four years, our school has developed and rooted other structures and approaches that supported the vision and mission of City Neighbors High School.
Every year, all of our Juniors participate in an Internship Program. Students are placed in an internship of their choice for one day per week – Over 180 students have participated in our internship program.
Every student participates in a Presentation of Learning – a chance for students to share their work and reflect upon their learning with their colleagues, their teachers, and their families – twice a year. Field work has taken our students everywhere from New York, New York to Birmingham, Alabama as students use the world as a classroom and bring their classroom experiences to the world.
From on-going One Voice community meetings to Talent Shows to Saturday Coach Classes to Summer Infusion programming to Enrichment Clubs and our School Basketball and Volleyball teams, the school continues to develop experiences that have our students connected to learning, the school, each other and the world.
The Third Teacher: The Environment
All of this work is nestled in a physical environment – unlike any in Baltimore City Schools. Re-designed for approximately nine million dollars, the former Hamilton Middle School building has been transformed into a model sight that connects the physical environment to our vision of having students Known, Loved and Inspired. With hallways designed to re-frame hallway culture, classrooms that include both working and comfortable spaces, a cafeteria designed by the students, walls that reflect student work, an infusion of glass to support ideas of transparency and connectedness, and furniture that communicates individuality, sturdiness, and care, the physical environment helps to re-frame the ideas of school and support our teaching, learning, structures and community. The physical environment is comforting and supportive and sends a strong message to the students.
The City Neighbors High School mission is to nurture and develop young men
and women who not only have excellent skills and content knowledge, but who have the ability to powerfully pursue their interests, ask questions and find answers, take ultimate responsibility for themselves and their community, and who know why and how to impact the larger world around them. Through a focus on social constructivism and project-based learning as well as an emphasis on community, creativity, and challenge - all in a small-school educational setting developed and run through partnership between
parents, students, and educators - students will develop the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and confidence to allow them to thrive in our interconnected, innovative, and inspired world.
Statement on Diversity:
Diversity is essential to who we are!
City Neighbors embraces the diversity within our school, community and the world. We look to create an enviornment that values all people of any ability, age, family structure, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientations, or socioeconomic status. We strive to create this enviornment through our curriculum, interactions, staffing, policies and procedures. As the familes, staff and students of City Neighbors we accept the responsibility to help every
member of our school feel safe, respected and valued.