Blair Academy: Close community, big opportunities

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Meaningful relationships that support students to grow academically, athletically and artistically — that’s what drives Blair Academy students.

Nestled in the small town of Blairstown in New Jersey, Blair is a coeducational boarding school where students in grades nine to 12 pursue a superior college preparatory education. Their academics are top-tier; their opportunities big — and at every step of the way, they’re backed by strong faculty-student relationships and a vibrant community life.

“At Blair, our teachers are experts in their subject areas and they know our students especially well,” says Nathan Molteni, Dean of Academics. “Strong relationships between faculty and students develop amid a vibrant community life and lead to exceptional learning, in our classrooms and beyond.”

Robust academic curriculum

The Blair curriculum is extensive. It’s designed to challenge and empower, preparing students for college and the working world. “Blair’s robust curriculum features rigorous traditional coursework and innovative electives designed to help students pursue — or discover — their passions,” says Molteni. “As teachers challenge students with new ideas and skills, they encourage creative expression while ensuring that students learn how to learn, preparing them to confidently address the demands of college and the 21st-century world.”

Blair believes that students learn best when they have a choice in what and how they learn. Hence why a wide range of courses is offered here, including more than 50 honours, Advanced Placement (AP) and post-AP classes. Electives are diverse, encompassing design-thinking, robotics, negotiation, theatre, video studies, economics, biomechanics, architecture and constitutional law.

Step into any Blair classroom and these subjects often come to life. Lively debates, the examination of great works of literature through an interdisciplinary lens, the study of art using technology and the joy of pure mathematics from teachers whose passion for the subject goes beyond its typical applications — these are typical scenes at Blair.

Blair Academy

Source: Blair Academy

Over at the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration, students learn by doing. The robotics team, for example, designs and refines robots that will compete head-to-head against some of the best secondary school robotics teams in the state. Meanwhile, at the Bogle Science Centre’s integrated science research laboratory, juniors are attempting to answer research questions sparked by their interests and replete with real-world implications.

As they cross disciplines, they enliven their creativity, innovative thinking and collaborative learning — linking classroom study to real-world challenges.

Whether in small classes or forward-thinking spaces, each student can build confidence and participate in discussions held in class. Teachers benefit from this practice as they can understand students’ learning styles, interests, abilities and passions. With this, they can cater to each individual need.

The goal of this student-centered approach to education is to prepare students for jobs that may not even exist today. “How? By connecting theory and practice, combining mathematics, programming and engineering and encouraging our students to think in both abstract and concrete terms,” says Molteni. “Our faculty encourages students to develop technical aptitudes that will serve them well as they transition into college and their professional careers. We emphasise project-based learning, with hands-on work dominating the class time.”

An acre per student, with no shortage of opportunities

The 463-acre campus in northwestern New Jersey is home to great facilities. There is a nine-hole golf course with an indoor golf training facility, 10-court tennis centre, an indoor rowing center for their national level crew program, a six-lane, 25-yard indoor pool, seven international squash courts, eight athletic fields, an all-weather turf field and track, two new upper-school dormitories, 10 residential buildings and six academic buildings, to name just a few.

Blair Academy

Source: Blair Academy

These amenities and facilities, not found at other schools, are where students get to take part in almost 40 different clubs and organisations. This includes acapella groups, weightlifting, culinary, language, and clubs to support women pursuing STEM.

These clubs are designed to allow students to step outside of their comfort zones and discover themselves. Blair music department chair Jennifer Pagotto leads Blair’s Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra and Jazz Band to push their creative boundaries and take risks. During International Week, students get to expand their world views further, by learning about the different cultures and regions that are represented throughout the school’s student and faculty population.

Blair students find their voice too. Through the  Effective Communication Programme, students learn how to express their ideas, advocate for themselves, and engage with others in ways that build vital relationships and lead to success in life. Formal leadership opportunities and applied-learning experiences inside and outside of class allow students to become the leaders they are meant to be.“Our mission is to prepare you for the world you will inhabit beyond Blair and give you all of the experiences and tools to find personal and professional fulfilment,” says Peter Curran, Head of School.

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