Posts about Student Learning

September 20, 2017

The Art of Problem Solving at BASIS Independent McLean

“What we need to work on in this country is getting comfortable with struggle in learning, with the discomfort that comes from not knowing something.”
~Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World.

At BASIS Independent McLean, we are eager to connect with fellow educators and educational programs. On September 6, our campus had the honor of hosting Richard Ruscyzk, co-author of the wildly popular Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) textbooks. For those who did not attend or who may not have heard of him, Richard is leading what Peg Tyre in The Atlantic dubbed “the math revolution.”

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May 10, 2017

Special Event with Richard Rusczyk, Co-Author of The Art of Problem Solving (AoPS)

“What we need to work on in this country is getting comfortable with struggle in learning, with the discomfort that comes from not knowing something.”
Amanda Ripley, author of “The Smartest Kids in the World”

mathpic.jpgAs we wrap up our first year as a school community, we very much seek out opportunities to connect with fellow educators and educational programs, both near and far. On May 18 at 6:30 PM, BASIS Independent McLean will host Richard Rusczyk, co-author of the wildly popular Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) textbooks. For those who may not have heard of this rock star math teacher, Richard is leading what Peg Tyre in The Atlantic dubbed “the math revolution.”

The AoPS textbooks and approach to learning have sparked an online school and community of 160,000 strong that includes the International Math Olympiad students and just about every math enthusiast on the planet. This year the AoPS team launched two brick and mortar schools, one in Morrisville, North Carolina and the other in Vienna, Virginia. I imagine they will spread like wildfire up and down the east and west coast.

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October 30, 2016

Struggle and The Art of Problem Solving at BASIS Independent McLean

“What we need to work on in this country is getting comfortable with struggle in learning, with the discomfort that comes from not knowing something.”
Amanda Ripley, author of “The Smartest Kids in the World”

“I believe the BASIS.ed culture prepares students for life because it teaches them that learning is cool, learning is essential, that you don’t always know the answers, but you know how to find the answers and you’re not going to give up until you find the answers. BASIS.ed will prepare you to never stop learning.”
Porter MacDonald, BASIS.ed art teacher

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May 9, 2016

Connections Class, Explained: Where Content Meets Creativity

Our unique Connections Class in grades 1-4 is a great example of how, starting at a young age, students bridge their content-rich studies with deep critical thinking skills, putting what they learn to the test in a scenario-based project learning block*. One of the goals of Connections, which meets once a week for 85 minutes, is to literally, “connect” the curriculum, showing how each subject relates to the other, even if it doesn’t seem to do so on the surface.

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April 6, 2016

An Experiment in Learning: 7th Graders Teach Kindergarteners

Teachers who are quick to recognize new learning opportunities and adapt lessons to meet the needs of a dynamic classroom make for the most memorable educators. Such opportunities are just one of the many reasons that our classrooms are more dynamic, more accelerated, more engaging, and lead our program to produce the greatest minds of the future. This story of teacher ingenuity in the classroom comes to us from our sister campus, BASIS Independent Brooklyn:

Demonstrating Mastery…The BASIS Independent Way

McLaughlinHahnThe middle school science curriculum at BASIS Independent Brooklyn is expansive, breaking down the sciences into the core disciplines of chemistry, physics, and biology, each taken 3 times per week throughout the year.  In biology, students just wrapped up a unit on functions and parts of cells, a fairly complex topic. Dr. Angela Hahn, Subject Expert Teacher for 6th, 7th and 8th grade biology and chemistry, works daily to break down complex subjects not typically seen until high school in American schools (or even college) to make them comprehensible to the 12 year old mind, finding key access points along the way to connect with students. 

Dr. Hahn is, as all BASIS Independent teachers are, a firm believer that if a student really ‘knows’ something and they can teach it to someone else, in their own words, then they have mastered it.  This simple concept is the genesis of what came to be an experiment in what it means to be a student – and a teacher – for our 7th graders.

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March 22, 2016

Independent Study Redefined: The BASIS Independent Senior Project (Part 1 of 3)

Last week's blog series; Alumni Angle, highlighted an account from a BASIS Alumi and their BASIS experience, transiton, favorite memories and college preperation. One of the elements we looked at was the overall experience, college preperation and key learning from the Senior Project. In this week's three part series, we focus on the Senior Project, the evolution of the Senior Project and discussion with the Director of Parnerships, who has been instramental in the Senior Project's implementation at BASIS.


In last week's blog series, Alumni Angle: we delve further into the importance of the Senior Project. looked at  three-part series offering a closer look at one of the hallmarks of a BASIS Independent education: The Senior Project.

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March 7, 2016

BASIS Independent Parent Teacher Conferences

Last year, the New York Times published an article about parent teacher conferences in New York City. These conferences, which one interviewed parent describes as akin to the "running of the bulls" in Pamplona, are worth really considering. Is the way most schools hold these conferences in the best interests of all involved? Here's the BASIS Independent take below:


BASIS Independent Schools do not hold formal Parent /Teacher Conference days. This practice can surprise some parents. What parent does not want the opportunity to talk with their child’s teachers about their progress, challenges and victories? What teacher does not want to reassure parents that their children are in safe hands?

It seems so simple: set aside a day and let the adults talk. But there, embedded in that brief injunction, lie the two major problems with Parent / Teacher Conference days.

The nightmare of the schedule.

I think of these formal days as a leftover from an era of one-size-fits-all education in which schools can seem to function like mid-twentieth century factories: “Dear Parent…you want to talk with your child’s teacher? You are welcome of course, but it must be on this day, at this time, and you will have 7 minutes before the production line moves to the next parent. The production line is sacrosanct and never stops.”

As for the teacher, consider that which is asked of them: “Dear colleagues, you will prepare to speak to all of your parents from morning to night about their children. We have provided breaks in your day, but of course parents will be late and conversations will run over the allotted 7 minutes, so bring some Kind Bars. Do not raise any genuinely troublesome or puzzling issues about a kid, as they require time. You have 7 minutes. Make it work.”

Behind the apparent openness of the Parent / Teacher Conference day is a subtle message from school to parent: “This is the deal: we hold this day for you and it is YOUR DAY! We all hate it as we are fried by lunch, which we never get, and there are hours more to go before we sleep. For the rest of the year try not to bother us too much as we are all very busy.”

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February 26, 2016

“The Child is father of the Man”: The learning culture of high expectations and high support

Because of the reputation of our program and the national results and international recognition we have attained, it is only natural that families are curious for our take on balancing high expectations and support at BASIS Independent. Read on for my take below:


Schools with very high academic expectations can easily become dystopian, highly engineered obstacle courses that lay waste to childhood. “Childhood” can signify quite different meanings to us all depending upon culture and personal experience. For me, when I think about “childhood,” I do not dwell too long on notions of innocence, but more on a hungry openness to new experiences and a capacity to feel and think with an intensity that weakens with the passing of the years.

One of my favorite statements about learning was made by the Russian writer, Alexander Herzen: “We think the purpose of a child is to grow up because it does grow up. But its purpose is to play, to enjoy itself, to be a child. If we merely look at the end of the process, the purpose of life is death.”

Herzen is invoking here a conception of play as a profoundly empowering human activity, and warning us that if we do not learn the joy and force of such play as children, our adult lives will be the less for it. Play, not as distraction from more important tasks, but as an activity that involves a total engagement in the complexity and revelations of the moment, a mind and an imagination supremely preoccupied by the invention at hand.

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February 23, 2016

Performing Arts at BASIS Independent

Given our program's reputation of academic excellence, it is all too easy for familes to think of us as "that school for kids who are good at math and science".

It couldn't be further from the truth. BASIS Independent students are artists, musicians, linguists, skateboarders, athletes, dancers and more. They all just happen to be part of a well-rounded, accelerated learning environment.

Not only do we value all disciplines equally, but as a program rooted in the liberal arts, we teach the full spectrum of liberal arts with the fervor and depth seen in an advanced math or science class.

Did you know that our students take performing arts beginning in PreK? As a mandatory part of our curriculum from PreK- grade 4, students are given the option to dive even deeper in to the performing arts with a daily elective option starting in 6th grade. 

Take a look for yourself! Back in December, our sister school in Brooklyn published a spotlight on their flourishing performing arts program. They invited two of their performing arts teachers, Ms. Annie Crowley and Ms. Elizabeth Simmons to help bring to life their comprehensive performing arts program:

What is the purpose of the drama program at BASIS Independent?

Ms. Crowley (AC): Our drama program aims to foster artistic and emotional development in our students. Skills are honed in physical and verbal communication, creative interpretation, imaginative play, and abstract thought. For me, the most important aspect of what we do is in the cultivation of empathy and global curiosity by learning to see ourselves in the lives and experiences of others. Here at BASIS Independent, the drama program works in conjunction with the other fine arts disciplines as a creative and emotional outlet for students while also posing exciting academic challenges.

Ms. Simmons (ES): We build skills that are useful both on and off the stage! An experiential curriculum starts with the "Tools in the Actors Toolbox", the Voice, Body, Imagination, Concentration, Collaboration. Students build on these skills creating scenes, original plays, and one acts.513c-597073-edited.jpg

How is it different than at other schools?

(ES): Practically speaking, we both came to BASIS Independent with backgrounds in professional theatre (as actors, directors, and dramaturges) in addition to our work as arts educators, giving us both a wide range of resources and experiences from which to draw. We both have a background in Devising Theatre, which means that the stories and plays on stage incorporate students' own ideas and experiences. This helps create a richer experience where everyone is engaged!

(AC): The primary difference that I see in our drama program is our broad, multi-pronged scope. Beginning in Kindergarten all the way into the high school years, drama is a present and integral aspect of the curriculum. As we are able to extend over so many grade levels, we are really able to craft a rich and comprehensive program, exposing students to aspects of the field where we would most likely not have the chance with a leaner schedule. As a teacher, it feels wonderful to have such support and confidence from BASIS Independent in the purpose and value of our subject. I feel so lucky here! 

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February 8, 2016

A Limitless Future: The BASIS Independent Student Video

We are excited to unveil to you the fruits of a couple of non-stop days in October - our BASIS Independent videos! Recently, we shared with you the first two videos in the series, the BASIS Independent Parent Video and the BASIS Independent Faculty Video.

Here's a refresher on the project: Over the course of three days, we filmed three separate videos: one about the family experience with our school, the teacher perspective on what it's like to work here, and the student perspective on what it is like to learn here. We love these videos and hope you do, too.

They are raw, spur of the moment, unscripted reflections of what it's like to be a part of the BASIS Independent community.

They breathe life into Education Redefined and demonstrate what happens when you combine an accelerated, rigorous curriculum with exceptional, expert educators in an environment of support and deep respect for the art and science of learning.

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Inspired by the blissful feeling of uncovering connections, our blog Eureka! McLean is about sharing moments that capture the essence of what it is to be a BASIS Independent student, teacher, administrator, or family.

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