4 dynamic US schools challenging students to step out of their comfort zones

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A good education prepares students for success, but a great one pushes them towards out-of-the-box thinking that leads to creative problem-solving. Critical thinking, curiosity, and cognitive flexibility are all listed under the World Economic Forum’s 21st century skills for students to thrive in the future workforce. To achieve that goal, schools must also transform the learning experience for students to fully tap into their potential. 

The American boarding school system provides the ideal environment for pupils to venture 

beyond the limits of their knowledge. A vibrant and diverse boarding life, combined with pursuits in the arts, athletics, innovation and beyond all serve to broaden a student’s worldview that places them ahead of their peers. 

Here are four American schools that reward originality and curiosity for students to thrive as the best version of themselves: 

Thornton Academy

Nestled in the safe and scenic coastal town of Saco, Maine, Thornton Academy is a non-sectarian, co-educational day and boarding school for pupils from grades six to twelve where they can be themselves, and become who they want to be. For more than two centuries, it has pursued its mission of “preparing students for a changing world” by keeping its eyes focused on the future, without losing sight of the past. 

Thornton Academy’s campus is like a small university. With buildings spanning over 80 acres, there is a place for everyone. Maine was named as the safest state in the US according to the US World News and Report, while the Thornton Academy was voted the best private school in the state in a 2021 poll, a title the school has proudly held for two consecutive years. 

Through Thornton Academy’s expansive academic, extracurricular, and athletic offerings, students can develop their passions and uncover their potential. The school’s strength lies in the sheer diversity of its academic programmes. Students can design their own learning with more than 200 courses to choose from in seven academic departments, featuring 26 Advanced Placement classes and more than 40 honours classes.

Thornton Academy is also well-known for its unique arts department that nurtures boundless artistry. Fifteen courses are offered in performing arts alone, including a four-year dance programme in which students can gain advanced choreographic and performance experience. The 500-seater Garland Auditorium sees over 75 productions, spanning dance, theatre, and music annually for students to showcase their talent.

Parents of boarders can rest easy knowing that Thornton Academy has been voted among the top five boarding schools in North America. A warm, family-like dynamic permeates its boarding life, supported by dorm families who are also teachers to meet each pupil’s emotional and learning needs. Boarders develop a sense of community through dining, dorm activities, and weekend excursions that enrich their lives on campus. 

Learn more on how you can be a part of the Thornton Academy community here, and follow the school on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

George School

George School

George School encourages self-reflection and openness to foster a welcoming community where each student is celebrated for who they are. Source: George School

A global school that holds local Quaker roots, George School in Newton, Pennsylvania boasts a 240-acre lawn and wooded hillsides for students to develop and ignite their passions through a philosophy of openness and introspection so students can flourish intellectually, personally, and spiritually. 

The co-educational boarding and day school represent 37 countries, with 41% students of colour in a community of 540 students in grades nine through 12. The school is among the first to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, with 59 courses to select from in a rigorous programme that balances academics and community service, creativity, and athletics. 

Residential life at George School is where students learn to be independent and grow through meaningful friendships. It is a second home that provides young minds with the opportunity to constantly reinvent themselves through various student clubs, sports, and adventures, all within a supportive environment that will help shape their character. 

Student support goes all the way to the upper years, as evident in the school’s student-centred College Counselling service. With the help of an exceptional team of counsellors to nudge them in the right direction, students are able to make informed decisions that are grounded in self-reflection about their future plans after graduation. Every senior student secures placement, with some securing several admissions to illustrious universities such as Brown University, Columbia University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.

New Hampton School

New Hampton School

The New Hampton School’s unique approach in building its Habits of Mind foundation among students result in imaginative and innovative graduates. Source: New Hampton School

Set against the picturesque village of New Hampton in New Hampshire, the New Hampton School is where students are welcome to build their own class schedules around their interest. The school’s Habits of Mind foundational ethos is built into each student to instigate big thinking that stretches beyond the imagination. The school also offers the IB Diploma Programme to expand one’s abilities, aspirations, and intellect.

The co-educational school is home to 12 residential houses, state-of-the-art learning facilities, a research centre, a newly renovated library, studios for every art, a recently updated athletics complex, and an endless mountain area for outdoor exploration — but it’s the community that truly forms the school’s character. 

Opportunities and support are numerous — their 325-strong students are free to be themselves and try new things. Whether through interscholastic teams or performing arts, students can find themselves uplifted in an inclusive, open, and happy community. 

Canterbury School

Canterbury School

Through stimulating curriculum and co-curricular pursuits, students of Canterbury School emerge as well-rounded individuals who are ready to take on future challenges in university and beyond. Source: Canterbury School

True change-making can only take flight with the right intellectual tools, which is why Canterbury School has a curriculum that is both vibrant and rigorous, with a broad selection of elective offerings that include 18 Advanced Placement and 25 Honours courses. Students are even offered the unique chance to take undergraduate courses from Syracuse University to earn college credits recognised at 80% of colleges and universities in the US.

Based in New Milford, Connecticut, the preparatory, co-educational boarding school opens its doors for students in grades nine to 12. An extraordinary community of faculty — who also serve as coaches, dorm parents, and advisors — work tirelessly to know students and know them well. 

As a result, they foster an ever-welcoming and high-achieving environment of academic rigour and personal growth for its multinational student body. There are 320 students here, representing 16 countries, and each is challenged to reach their greatest potential in and out of the classroom.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International





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