The Hun School of Princeton
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The Hun School of Princeton: The power of real-world, self-directed learning

Today’s world demands graduates who can apply knowledge, not just recall it. Schooling that connects learning to real-world problems and allows students to get their hands dirty – sometimes literally! – fuels engagement and hones their critical thinking skills.

Imagine spending a Computer Science class writing code to help your school’s robot tour guide answer questions, or suiting up with beekeepers to explore how the honeybee population impacts a region’s biodiversity.

The Hun School of Princeton

Source: The Hun School of Princeton

Such experiential learning makes education relevant and prepares students to thrive in a dynamic future.

This is what The Hun School of Princeton does best. Founded in 1914, this all-gender, private day and boarding school is a vibrant community of students from grades six to postgraduate. At Hun, students are encouraged to explore, experiment, and embrace challenges, both inside and outside the classroom.

Classes are interdisciplinary, preparing students and mapping their progression in seven different 21st Century Skills, including creativity, cultural competency, collaborative problem-solving, critical thinking, ethical decision-making, effective communication, and leadership.

Dedicated teachers offer support and mentorship, and a global community of students offer different perspectives and camaraderie, fostering a culture of collaboration and understanding.

The Hun School believes in pushing the boundaries of traditional education, and this philosophy manifests in the unique NextTerm programme — a three-week mini-semester offered every May. Instead of counting down the days to summer break, students are invigorated by an immersive class that pulls them out of the traditional classroom and into the real world.

Students in grades nine, ten, and eleven might study the politization of America’s National Park system while hiking in Yosemite National Park, or the migration of sea turtles in Costa Rica, or even the business of honeybees just a few miles from campus. Led by dedicated and passionate teachers, the students benefit from using the world as their classrooms.

Just ask Michael D’24, who chose “Into The Open Spaces: America’s National Park Experience” for his 11th grade NextTerm course. During the course, Michael and his classmates explored the landscapes of Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone National Parks. The trip ignited a love for nature and philosophy.

“I was so inspired coming out of the course,” Michael says. “His class changed my understanding of education. Everything was experiential and collaborative and learning was a product of having fun.”

Every NextTerm class culminates in a student-directed project showcased at NeXpo, a dedicated exhibition event where parents, peers, and community members can hear about their class experiences.

The Hun School knows that when students are interested in what they are learning they delve deeper, retain more, and discover bigger ideas.

NextTerm classes aren’t the only Hun classes that are project-based, with a hefty dose of student choice built in.

The Hun School of Princeton

Source: The Hun School of Princeton

Hun students can decide not only what classes to take, but create their own projects and experiments, too. The Scholars Programme, takes it a step further and encourages students to identify and pursue a specific interdisciplinary interest. Working with an advisor, they select courses and develop independent projects that inform and support that study.

The programme culminates in a 12tth grade Capstone project, where students present their work to a panel of faculty and students. Successful completion earns them an honours designation in relevant courses and a scholar’s distinction on their diploma.

James Mueller, a senior, credits the Scholars Programme with allowing him to “really dive into” his interest in American government and service. “I was a bit apprehensive at first but then realised this opportunity is exactly why I came to Hun,” he says. “I’ve done two great projects and am excited to see where it takes me.”

With more than 200 courses in The Upper School curriculum, Hun students have plenty of options. A recent change to a trimester system empowers students to choose up to six elective courses each year. The system distributes the workload for students and faculty, allowing students to choose courses based on genuine interest, rather than focusing solely on future academic goals. Each trimester class lasts ten weeks.

This system, according to Kaia D. ‘24, has been instrumental in getting her out of her comfort zone. Initially introduced to coding in a required course, she found herself enjoying it a lot. With the switch to the trimester system during her junior year, Kaia was able to seamlessly integrate CAD 1 and 2 into her schedule.

“Overall, I prefer the schedule we have now,” she says. “I feel like my schedule is lighter; I’m taking more classes, but it opens me up to trying new things with all the different classes offered.”

The shorter trimesters also allow teachers to experiment with innovative teaching methods. “It makes us better educators because we’re compelled to stop being content-driven and to think critically about what and how we are delivering learning, how we are mobilising skills, and what is essential,” History Teacher Mr. Hart explains.

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