Close-knit living and learning communities help students thrive academically, while also training them in the skills they need to succeed outside of the classroom.
For students, parents, and guardians considering alternative education, choosing between boarding and day schools can be a major factor. While living with family ensures that teens have a familiar homebase to fall back on as they explore different educational environments, going away to school can afford some students the space they need to better understand themselves, their peers, and their path forward in life.
At Oliverian, we’ve created a living and learning community that is, first and foremost, an engine for student growth. From highly individualized teaching and adventure-based education to service learning and personal exploration, we understand that communal living environments as close-knit as ours allow students to excel in their own way — both within the classroom and beyond it. If you’re considering whether residential life in an alternative educational environment is right for you or your student, consider these five ways that communal living helps prepare high schoolers for the real world.
While every school should prioritize teaching that plays to students’ strengths, communal living provides a unique opportunity for faculty and staff to engage with teens on a key developmental level. Residential learning environments allow for educators, administrators, and staff to shape an educational ecosystem that allows space for exploration and failure — something that’s beyond the control of their professional counterparts in non-residential settings.
For students who have had negative high school experiences elsewhere, the freedom to engage with material in their own way under the guidance of teachers who are part of their daily lives fosters academic growth based on curiosity and passion rather than standardization and rote memorization. When students become the primary drivers of their own interests and when they learn to form positive relationships with teachers, they’re better positioned to succeed in higher education and in their future careers.
Ideally, a student’s education should equip them to lead a fulfilling life beyond purely academic pursuits. In a communal living environment, teens can more readily take advantage of school-wide programming that engages them outside of the classroom. For example, community service opportunities that students in non-residential schools might never seriously consider can be the basis for formative life lessons. Living with classmates and in the company of educators can lead to spontaneous, thoughtful conversations about a student’s place in their community and what serving others looks like in practice.
Students come to residential schools from all over the world and from every type of community imaginable. For many students, trips outside of their hometown have been few and far between. In a communal living environment, teens can benefit from diverse friend groups and frequent school excursions.
Adventure-based learning, for instance, places students in settings where their critical thinking skills mesh with spatial reasoning and team building. On camping trips, teens may monitor ecological health, observe wildlife, or collect natural samples. By engaging with classroom material in the wild, students can push beyond their comfort zone and exercise their leadership abilities, all while building an appreciation for the outdoors.
Whether high school students are preparing for college or for a vocation, it’s never too early to begin developing a healthy sense of independence — along with the emotional and practical skills to sustain it. In a communal living environment, teens are empowered to think for themselves outside of the immediate safety net of their families.
With educators, administrators, and staff standing by to offer advice and guidance to students, high schoolers in a residential setting can begin making key decisions at an earlier age than students at non-residential schools. Effective budgeting, for example, prepares teens for the tasks they’ll need to master if they’re going to thrive after graduation — all within a supportive community made up of peers and teachers.
While teachers in non-residential schools can certainly become indispensable mentors in the lives of their pupils, students in residential schools benefit from around-the-clock support. In this way, teens no longer learn in isolation from their counselors or live in isolation from their educators. Instead, an integrated living and learning environment provides high schoolers with mentors, champions, and role models — all at the same time. For students who’ve felt isolated at other schools, looking to teachers as allies rather than enemies can be the difference between failure and success.