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Realms: For Passionate Learning Inquire Within

This month we’re profiling the faculty at Realms of Inquiry, a private school for grades 6 – 12.  Located in Murray, this school provides students with a unique learning environment.  The curriculum is based upon the State Core, but also incorporates a model of expeditionary learning combined with a strong service-learning component.   We spoke with Ross Jones, the Headmaster at Realms, as well as members of the faculty including: Andrew Jones, Peter Westman, and Emily Earl.

Realms StaffOne of the biggest factors for many of the staff coming to Realms was the diversity of learning opportunities the schools provides its students. While many traditional classrooms typically have a teacher-led curriculum, Realms prides itself on having student-centered lessons.

“What first attracted me to Realms was the vibrancy of the students. Every kid was excited, enthusiastic, and seemed to love being engaged with learning. Many kids thrive here where they may not in a traditional school model. The more interesting a kid is the better he is liked around here. He is not rejected or discouraged, he’s embraced and encouraged as an individual. Not just by the staff, but by the other students as well. Some kids that feel like a square peg in a round hole in the public school system are embraced at Realms.”

A unique aspect of the learning model at Realms involves expeditionary learning. Students are expected to travel to different parts of the world during their time in school. These groups are led by the faculty and involve service-learning missions as part of the excursions.

“Over my 23 years at Realms I’ve been with students to over 30 different countries. I’ve also been fortunate to backpack with students throughout the Western United States. We usually travel for over a month at a time and truly immerse the kids in local history and culture. I’ve shared some amazing experiences with students on these trips. The students love it and they’ve learned a huge amount from their travels.”

During their recent trip to Vietnam Realms students experienced a variety of adventures including: sea kayaking, rock climbing, hiking through the jungle in the Mekong, and learning how to speak with the people (keep in mind that Vietnamese is a tonal language). The capstone of the trip was the service project working with an advocacy group helping children and families affected by HIV/Aids.

“Before we left on our journey the student held fundraisers and collected quite a bit of money to donate to the group. Once we arrived in Vietnam, we got to spend two days playing with the kids and helping to celebrate the New Year. It was a great service opportunity for our students and they absolutely loved it!”

Students are required to develop their own projects for learning. One student may want to study metals, so they will design a project in which they learn how to create something out of metal. While they are working on the project the student must divine academic material from the activity, such as chemistry, math, or physics, and be able to demonstrate competency in those subjects. The faculty members serve as mentors to the students, but much of the learning is student driven. Much of our project-based learning illustrates a reversal of what you’d see in a traditional school.

“We have a pretty small group at Realms. It’s a positive because I know every single student that attends at Realms. I not only know their names but I know their likes and dislikes, I know their strengths and weaknesses, and I know how I can work with them to help them excel.”

In the end, the biggest reason why these amazing teachers have come to the Realms of Inquiry is the students. They love seeing students excited to learn and the teachers love getting to learn along with them.

"The sense of family is so important to us at Realms. I love coming to school every single day. It’s so fun to get here in the mornings and see the excitement of the students and the staff. Everyone loves coming to school and we love coming to school with them."

Listen to entire interview with the Realms of Inquiry faculty below.

Contributed by Jared Covili

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