Northwest Passage High School
About the Learning Program
Our curriculum combines advisory, inquiry driven project based learning, interdisciplinary seminars and expeditions. We strive to teach students to become independent learners with the skills to be successful in the 21st century.
School Spotlight: Northwest Passage High School
From NPHS: Northwest Passage High School is a 9th through 12th grade charter school located in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Our mission is “Rekindling our hope, exploring our world, seeking our path, while building our community.” NWPHS focuses on project-based and expeditionary learning. We are designed around a small school model with a maximum of 185 students divided across a three-building campus with multi-aged advisories of no more than 16 students. We truly embrace our project-based and expeditionary learning models by supporting student-directed learning opportunities and providing 15-20 overnight learning expeditions throughout the state, the country, and the world—at no cost to students and families.
NWPHS has adopted a teacher-powered school model that brings all stakeholders to the table for important decision making. While NWPHS does maintain a school director, the majority of decisions are made through staff consensus, including: hiring, daily schedule, school calendar, curriculum, expeditions, and spending. NWPHS maintains a teacher-majority school board, leaving critical decision making—such as budgeting and the hiring and evaluation of the director—in the hands of the people who know the school best.
One of the unique aspects of the NWPHS teacher-powered model is our annual summer staff retreat. Each year staff participate in a two to three-day overnight retreat off-site to reflect on the previous school year and plan for the next. Staff openly discuss program design issues and improvements, create the expedition schedule including destination and budget, and divide the many responsibilities involved in running a successful school—including fundraisers, prom, graduations, grade cohorts, coverage schedules, student orientation and student expos. In addition to the structural components of organizing the school, staff also lead workshops for each other on topics such as assessment, technology, mental health, special education and passion projects.
While the retreat is designed to accomplish a number of things and jumpstart staff for the upcoming school year, it is also a time for fellowship, food, and fun. Staff spend time in small group conversation, sharing in the preparation of group meals and just playing games, hiking, and canoeing—all of which helps to create an environment of camaraderie and mutual respect that helps when weathering the inevitable difficult times.