School today can be traditional, just like most of us remember — but it doesn’t have to be. Across the country, some standout schools have thrown out the old play book and created something totally new. Kids tend to love these schools, as do the educators who work there, which makes for creative, innovative learning environments where kids grow and thrive. Check out these seven emerging school models to get a glimpse of what’s possible — and then look for schools like these near you.

7 cool school models

Project-based learning (with design thinking)

Design thinking is a proven method of inquiry and exploration, like the scientific method. At this project-based school, all student projects are approached through the lens of design thinking. See how Design Tech High in San Mateo County, CA, the first school on a corporate campus, makes this emerging school model work.

Language immersion schools

At language immersion schools, students spend half the day learning all subjects in English and half the day learning all subjects in the target language. See how Broadway Elementary School, a K-6 school in Venice, CA is teaching kids to be bilingual Spanish and Chinese speakers.

High-expectations, high-support schools

Many charter schools across the country have adopted the high-expectations, high-support school model. These schools often serve traditionally underserved students with the goal of making sure students are prepared for college. KIPP Bayview Academy, which serves grades 5 to 8 in San Francisco, CA, exemplifies this cool school model.

Montessori schools

Long embraced by preschools, Montessori-style education has recently been implemented in elementary, middle, and even high schools. It’s a child-centered approach to learning, and when you look around a classroom, each child may be working independently on totally different tasks. For example, see how Urban Montessori School in Oakland, CA serves kindergartners through eighth graders.

Environmental science schools

The beauty of environmental science schools is how much time kids spend doing hands-on learning both inside the classroom and outside in nature. Core skills are taught through the lens of learning about the natural world and environmental issues. See how C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy, a K-8 school in Grand Rapids, MI, incorporates environmental science into students’ daily lives.

Performance-based learning school

Performance-based learning means that students only move on to new skills once they prove they’re proficient in the ones they’re learning. That means kids get the opportunity to learn at their own pace. If a certain chemistry concept takes a student longer to master, he has that time. When a student masters a math concept quickly, she can move on. Lindsay High School in Lindsay, CA adopted this model to improve student outcomes.

Place-based schools

The idea behind place-based schools is to immerse students in daily learning by locating the school inside an inspiring learning environment. The Grand Rapids Public Museum Middle School in Grand Rapids, MI, is on the top floor of the local museum that focuses on history, science, and culture. See how students explore the museum as they work on class projects.

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