The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole.
— Krishnamurti

The world is getting more complex… rapid globalization, accelerating technology, widening social-economic gaps, environmental impact, ubiquitous social media… it’s enough to make you want to crawl back into bed. The knowledge and skills required to be successful today are much more complicated than in generations past, and increasing every day.  Yet while we race to invent ever-more advanced technology to sustain a full-speed life, is our level of wisdom keeping pace? 

Every now and then, it’s important to stop and take stock of how consciously we’re creating the world we want to live in. Education systems are struggling to keep up with this increasing work-load. How do we best prepare our children for a successful life? What do they need to learn for a healthy adulthood? Fortunately for us, there is a growing body of research that’s studying these exact questions.

 
 
 

A BROADER DEFINITION
OF SUCCESS

 

Emerging research in the field of pro-social psychology continues to explore what matters most for a successful life. Across a wide-range of sub-cultures and socio-economic groups there appear to be three consistent responses to this question:

 

1. To live a meaningful life

While meaningfulness and happiness have much in common, they are subtly distinct. Happiness is largely a matter of getting what we want at that moment. Living a life of meaning is more about expressing one’s authentic Self and doing positive things for others. We want to feel we made a difference, somehow.

 

2. To feel connected to others

Humans are social animals, and being engaged in positive and intimate relationships with friends, family, and partners is often the most significant factor in emotional health. When this connection matures into love, it even further deepens our sense of joy and fulfillment. 

 

3. To take conscious action

We live in the world, and that requires knowing how to navigate a human journey. Success for most people includes achievement of their pursuits, whatever form they take. For many, this involves feeling a sense of purpose, developing mastery, and persevering towards their goals. For all of us, it should include acting from a place of loving presence in all that we do.

 
 

Living a life that integrates these aspects of well-being can lead to what Aristotle called “Eudaimonia”, a Greek word that translates into “human flourishing”.

At Millennium, we believe building a foundation for this broader definition of success is the purpose of education. Our mission is to translate leading research in Developmental Science and implement it into practical methods of instruction, integrating academics and life skills into learning experiences appropriate for adolescents. 

 
 
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A Foundation for Success

We can only transform humanity and create a happier more compassionate world through education.
— Dalai Lama
 

Children are shaped by their interactions with the world, those around them, and how they make meaning of their experiences. Over time, they begin to form belief systems around these experiences, constructing their individual sense of Self, or consciousness. 

Developmental psychologists have identified numerous features of an individual’s consciousness… such as cognition, values, and identity. These features develop through recognizable stages, with each stage revealing a markedly different understanding of the world or “worldview”.

This developmental framework below is an integration of research by dozens of humanistic psychologists over the past sixty years.  It posits that as individuals mature through stages over time, they integrate what they have learned and transcend from one worldview to the next. When students experience trauma, their development “arrests” and they can get stuck in lower levels of perspective. 

Our goal is to provide an environment that accepts students exactly where they are, while modeling a path for them to heal and grow into their fullest potential. To help students construct a foundation for success throughout life, we must understand what developmental experiences most effectively inspire and support students’ natural progression.

 
 
 

Education for Adolescents

At a stage when young people want more than anything to be like everyone else, they find themselves the least alike.
— Larry Steinberg, Age of Opportunity
 

Adolescence can be a crazy ride. It’s that period in life when students experience enormous personal growth… wanting to be seen and hoping no one will notice them all at once. It can be awkward, liberating, disastrous and exhilarating… often in the span of a few minutes. It is both a critical stage in human development and that chapter we hope most to race through.

Education in particular has had a difficult time designing for adolescence. Student are exploding with curiosity about themselves, each other, and the world around them… and none of that is in their text books. Everyone is growing and changing and learning, but each at her own pace. 

Millennium answers this challenge by designing a learning environment specifically suited to adolescents. Young teens seek to construct a sense of agency, an integrated identity, and the competencies to navigate in school and beyond. To this end, we engage students in the self-construction of their own learning experience by asking them three key questions.

 

Three Key Questions

 

Adolescents are fascinated with themselves. They are waking up to a new body, thoughts, and emotions each morning. They are hungry to learn about themselves, what they can do, and who they will become. It is critical that students be encouraged to “go-inside” and strengthen this inner sense of Self through active exploration.

Early adolescence is the most-socially formative time of our lives. Students are sensitive to how they are perceived by others, and social acceptance trumps all other passing thoughts. This is the perfect age to learn how to interact with kindness, acceptance, and respect for multiple perspectives.

Adolescents want to know how the “real world” works. They have a keen sense for irrelevance and will gladly share it with you. They love knowing what’s beyond their classroom walls and are curious about how they can contribute to it.

 

 

Millennium weaves these three questions into all that we do, from our Integrated Academics to Self-Evaluations.

 
 
 

Key Principles of Humanistic Education

It’s not uncommon to hear schools talking about the “Whole Student.” At Millennium, this means more than a “Whole Curriculum”. We challenge students to master much more than a broad range of subjects… they must also explore a broad range of their Selves.

 

 

Inner &
Outer Self

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Most of education involves teaching students important facts and concepts about the world… its history, its languages, and its sciences. Yet what about the stuff you can’t see? The stuff inside of us. We believe the Inner World of a student is at least as important as the Outer World we all live in. We embrace this exploration boldly. Wherever it leads each unique student is up to them.

 

Multiple Dimensions
of Intelligence

 
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While these categories can be scientifically fuzzy, interrelated and overlapping… there is great evidence that it’s possible to expand each one with attention and practice.  By explicitly including capacity-building into our learning objectives, students not only discover their strengths but learn how to expand them.While these categories can be scientifically fuzzy, interrelated and overlapping… there is great evidence that it’s possible to expand each one with attention and practice.  By explicitly including capacity-building into our learning objectives, students not only discover their strengths but learn how to expand them.

  • Cognitive
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Creative
  • Ethical
  • Spiritual
 

Informed by
Neuroscience

 
 

Each year we understand more about how our brains learn and develop. Today we know that “Right Brain” vs “Left Brain” distinctions are a myth. So is the prevailing belief that different people learn with different learning styles (hint: we all use all styles simultaneously). We know how to align brain-waves with different modes of learning, and how to best apply recall, chunking, growth mindsets, and other behavioral change processes to optimize learning. Millennium integrates and adapts these techniques daily.

 

Agency & Intrinsic
Motivation

 
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Agency is the capacity and propensity of a student to take purposeful initiative – the opposite of helplessness. Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. Together what we’re seeking is that our students take responsibility for their own learning and development, authentically, for its own sake.

 

Student Voice
& Choice

 
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Once students have found their authentic voice (not hard for adolescents), it’s up to the faculty to personalize the learning to meet their needs. This isn’t always easy. It requires agility, creativity and flexibility. But when done well, the students are excited about school, and themselves, and are on their way to healthy independence.

 

Village
Roles

 
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Adolescents used to contribute to the local village with real responsibilities by age 12. They were recognized as young adults at 13. Young teens still crave discipline, structure, and accountability. How better than to give them a job. These leadership roles can range from preparing community lunch, to supervising chores, planning class trips, running micro economy projects, and more.

 
 
 

Key Practices of Humanistic Education

Students develop not from “learning” a concept but from “experiencing” an environment. They can “know” a fact to be true, but they must “realize” beliefs and values from their own experiences. As a result, the bulk of Millennium’s instructional methods involve “experiential” learning.
 

 

Individual & Team Projects

Millennium combines emergent and inquiry-based learning into new student projects each term. Within a defined theme, students apply inter-disciplinary academics to explore their own conclusions. Through project-work the students learn collaboration, time management, creative problem-solving, and other critical skills for success.

Harkness Seminars

Millennium faculty are trained at Exeter in the Harkness method of seminar facilitation. Imagine 12 young teens sitting around a table debating a text and sharing their own unique perspectives. They learn to listen to each other, respectfully challenge, and present original ideas supported with facts… peer to peer.

Real World Apprenticeships

Students are fascinated by what adults do all day. How do they find interesting careers? How do people make money? What’s the difference between working at City Hall, Google, or the local bakery? At Millennium, students learn to prepare a resume, interview for a position, and apprentice in a range of local businesses. They also run their own enterprise, building and selling products themselves.

 

Intersessions

For one week between each Term, we explore something completely different. Intersessions can range from building out a Maker-Space, to running a mock election, to refurbishing urban gardens or taking class trips.  Intersessions give students a chance to recharge, and expand their exposure to the world.

Weekly Excursions

One day each week Millennium students venture out into their San Francisco community, our classroom beyond walls. Excursions range from scientific studies, to cultural field trips, technology company tours, and community service. The students connect their academics to the real world, and begin to learn their place in it.

Wilderness Expeditions

Nature provides an excellent classroom. With our team of adventure leaders from Back to Earth, students actively explore the northern California wilderness throughout the year. From camping in the woods to backpacking, building fires, and sleeping under the stars. Kids return more mature, more connected, and more grounded from their experience together.

 
 
 

Millennium “Guides” are our agents for change

Teachers are the heart of any school, and at Millennium we have attracted truly remarkable talent. We believe their role is not only to support the students’ mastery of rigorous academics, but to also guide the exploration of themselves and the world around them. Millennium teachers model healthy adult behaviors like compassion, curiosity, creativity, and non-judgmental acceptance. They set high expectations and then support the students in surpassing them.

 

Faculty Profile - Millennium Guides are selected for their expertise in three key areas of personal and professional development: (i) Excellent academic instruction with adolescents; (ii) A deep personal development practice; and (iii) Real-world experience beyond teaching. We aspire to the same worldviews we teach. In order to inspire students to their fullest life, our faculty must be fully engaged in their own.

Mirror, Model, Mentor – To develop the “whole child” requires a broader definition of “teaching”. In addition to being highly skilled at transferring academic knowledge, Millennium Guides play three additional roles: 

 

1. Mirroring is our practice of seeing the whole child. Through daily mindfulness practices, whole-child assessments, leading small student Forums, and bringing a conscious presence to each one-on-one interaction… our Guides seek to fully “See” the student in front of them in each moment. 

 

2. Modeling is our practice of modeling authentic-level awareness as adults. Millennium faculty often team-teach, and we co-manage select school operations together with the kids. Students observe and interact with our adult community just as they would if living in a small village… honestly and transparently.

 

3. Mentoring is our practice of guiding each student along his or her unique path. This may involve helping them to select specific projects, electives, school leadership roles, or an apprenticeship. Our guides really “Know” our students, and are resourceful at helping them explore their passion.