The model of education we generally follow in the United States is the old factory model. It goes back to a time when kids were expected to sit at desks all day memorizing, reciting, and writing so they would learn to be obedient factory workers.
That style of learning was designed more than 100 years ago when children were being groomed for a career of performing repetitive tasks that didn’t require out-of-the-box thinking.
But old schools can’t teach students new tricks. That’s why we designed North Tampa Christian Academy (NTCA) to more effectively prepare students for success in career, college, life, and eternity.
“The kids in our schools today are preparing for jobs that aren’t even invented yet,” said Dr. Sandra Doran, our head of school at NTCA. “So we need to teach them to think critically. We need to teach them how to think, not what to think.”
At NTCA, we want everything our students do to make a difference. That’s why Dr. Sandra frequently refers to the concept of “21st Century learning.”
“With 21st Century learning, you’re looking at education that has an authenticity about it,” Dr. Sandra said. “There’s a relevance to it. We’re no longer making something for the science fair and then throwing it away when the science fair is over. There has to be a reason for doing it, and there has to be integration.”
In real life, we don’t compartmentalize tasks the way we’ve always done in traditional schools. We don’t work on writing a report for 50 minutes and then move on to crunching numbers in a spreadsheet and then move on to write a list of unrelated spelling words. It all flows into a coherent whole that balances out over the course of the day, week, and year. Likewise, at NTCA, we offer Project-Based Learning, where students have an opportunity to write reports, create spreadsheets, and spell words that all tie together into one meaningful project.
The idea is for students to be immersed in something that is so important to them, they will be motivated to do their best. Excellence follows purpose.
Space for Creativity
Not every child has the same learning style. We honor those different styles by providing a variety of spaces throughout the campus. There is room for people to be reflective and alone. We have spaces for small group work and large group work. The furniture is movable. There are even designated “messy areas.”
That’s right, parents, we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty at NTCA. And your kids will love that about us.
Think about your home. What is the most creative space? For a lot of people, it’s the garage. That’s where you can let your mind run free and not worry about making a mess because you don’t care if you slop a little paint on the floor. You can put up the garage door, make some noise, and experiment.
The man who gave form to this vision is Prakash Nair, the founding president and CEO of Fielding Nair International. His company is an award-winning planning and architectural design firm that builds and renovates school facilities designed to improve learning.
Nair is known for his work on schools designed for 21st Century learning — and conveniently, he lives in the Tampa area. The original design for NTCA had it looking more like a big-box store than a school. So on Nair’s first visit to our job site, he took one look at the plans and said, “Wait a minute. You can do better than this.”
He ditched the plan for one massive building in favor of multiple “learning communities” that are more personalized. It was his idea to bring the outdoors in by adding massive glass walls and rolling garage-style doors.
The result is a campus designed from the ground up to help students learn intuitively. We give them the tools and platforms to answer the question that Dr. Sandra asks as a litmus test for everything we do, not just at school, but also in life:
“Are you creating beauty or are you solving a problem? Because if you’re doing neither, then what’s the point?”