Building Leadership Skills with Real-World Content at the Nevada School of Inquiry

Nevada School of Inquiry (NVSI) is a nonprofit private middle school located in Las Vegas, on Warm Springs and Pecos, serving up to 30 students in grades 6-8.  The mission of NVSI is to cultivate the next generation of well-rounded, confident problem solvers by providing the highest quality of learning experiences that nurture the whole child. 

We have, in a sense, brought back the one-room schoolhouse for middle schoolers. 

The Directors of NVSI, Christina and Eric Threeton, have carefully designed inquiry-based instructional units that connect across all curricular areas.  This provides students opportunities to explore their leadership skills by connecting content to the real-world, to solve real-world problems. 

Christina and Eric are a dynamic educator couple from Las Vegas, who have been teaching and leading schools locally for over a decade. Both started their journey in education as teachers in the Clark County School District, before moving into the state charter school system.  Each had been serving as administrators for different Las Vegas charter schools, before bringing that momentum and success to the Nevada School of Inquiry.

What is one unique (or uncommon) feature of your microschool experience your learners and families tell you they especially value?
This is a tricky question to answer!  The biggest kudos we get as a school, from families, is how their child has changed since coming to us.  Parents say their kids are more independent and determined.  This may have to do with our small group size, where we are all accountable for every action we make (something especially important for middle-school aged students).  We also get, "my kid actually likes coming to school", a lot too!  This again, has to do with many factors at play.  We are not an institution that takes a "one size fits most" approach.  We have dynamic and adaptive plans for each of our students, which helps target exactly what they need.  We also listen to students, and they are a big part in the path instruction may take.  That sense of belonging, ownership, and mutual respect help engage students in taking charge of their learning.

What is one favorite aspect of your work that would have been especially difficult to deliver in traditional school settings?
One word... flexibility!  We do not have to follow any procedures or timelines passed down from "above" in order to check boxes.  We can consistently do what is right for our students, in terms of pacing, instruction, and of course our many field trips!  And the best part, no one to ask permission to accomplish any of this.

Share a story about what success looks like in your microschool. 
In terms of academics, we have seen an average growth of two years in both ELA and Math!  This is huge, and is evaluated through triangulation of data between our benchmark measures (IXL and AimsWeb), in conjunction with our own internal school assessments.  Why so much growth?  It has to do with our learning environment.  Not only are students below grade level making this growth, so are students at and above grade level. We can see that our students are thriving!  They are happy, excited to learn, and are a part of the community... not just along for the ride.  Our small size mixed with effective teaching practices from highly qualified instructors is quite a good recipe for success.

What is one piece of advice you give new microschool founders?
It may sound cliché, but "Just Do It".  It is that simple!  If you can financially make it happen (there may be some hard times getting started- education is not a field to turn a huge profit), take the leap.  It is worth every sacrifice being able to do what you know is right. Be sure to find someone that has gone through the process to help mentor you so you don't have to learn things the hard way.

Please describe one facet of your microschool’s experience that you’d like people to think of when your microschool comes up in conversation.
Our school has its own tagline, "Not just an education, an experience!"  This pretty much sums up what we believe at NVSI.  We are not lecture based, but inquiry based, giving kids opportunities to experience what they are learning.  This even goes beyond classroom instruction, as we also embed off-campus learning experiences about twice each month.  These field trips showcase learning in its purist form.  Whether we are volunteering, touring a local business, visiting a museum, or even going on a hike!


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