Academic Philosophy

How we think. How they learn.


How we think.

Imagine, if you will, a high-school where students are free to learn at their pace and to pursue their interests. A school that is based on activities and projects that have meaning and provide value to both the student and the community. It is not a school with classrooms and desks. There is no disconnected curriculum, bits of this and that which the students must try to memorize and test for. Instead, they find themselves surrounded by abundant fresh air and limitless opportunities for personal growth, development of both critical thinking and real-world skills.

We follow the philosophy of Tony Wagner and many others who have done the research and shown unequivocally that our current education system neither teaches the students how to think, nor prepares them for what is ahead, be it college, workforce or citizenry. Mr. Wagner’s book “The Global Achievement Gap”, is on our resource list along with many other worthwhile selections on the topic of education. In it, he has defined 7 important skills that all students should have. These skills are listed here with quotes from his book and website with examples of the types of learning opportunities we provide here at LOCAL STEW U (LoSU) to address these needs. It is our goal to re-awaken and strengthen a love of learning in your child, to spark their curiosity, and develop their entrepreneurial minds. When they leave LoSU, they will be more ready for work or college then you or they ever imagined.

How they learn.

1. Critical thinking and problem solving

“The idea that a company’s senior leaders have all the answers and can solve problems by themselves has gone completely by the wayside…The person who’s close to the work has to have strong analytic skills. You have to be rigorous: test your assumptions, don’t take things at face value, don’t go in with preconceived ideas that you’re trying to prove.”  —Ellen Kumata, consultant to Fortune 200 companies

The farm offers an abundance of opportunities for problem solving and development of these skills. Students will be re-taught the scientific method and will be encouraged to apply it to everything they do here. The will learn to ask questions, make assumptions, test, experiment, fail, succeed and learn. 

2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence 

“The biggest problem we have in the company as a whole is finding people capable of exerting leadership across the board…Our mantra is that you lead by influence, rather than authority.”  —Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Cisco

LoSU’s culture is one of collaboration and mentoring. While individual learning will take place, many of the problems and projects will be approached by teams of varying sizes. Students will learn to assess their own strengths as well as those of their teammate’s to facilitate collaboration in reaching the best solution to any number of problems they will be presented with. Students will not only learn methods for problem solving, but methods for effectively dealing with other team members, their personalities and their objections to ideas using problem solving and decision management tools such as Edward de Bono’s “6 Thinking Hats.”

3. Agility and Adaptability

“I’ve been here four years, and we’ve done fundamental reorganization every year because of changes in the business…I can guarantee the job I hire someone to do will change or may not exist in the future, so this is why adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills.” —Clay Parker, President of Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards

One thing life on the farm teaches pretty quickly is that things change – constantly. Seasons change, weather changes, growing needs change. Methods that worked last year, or even last month, do not work now. Parasites become resistant to deworming methods. Healthy animals suddenly become sick. Fish die off with no apparent cause – many, many changes. Students learn to adapt and respond to these changes. They learn to ask questions, analyze data and even start to foresee it. They study, research, make assumptions, experiment and learn new skills to adapt. The very nature of this farm-based school changes the core of these students and prepares them for the ever-morphing marketplace of their future lives.

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurship

“For our production and crafts staff, the hourly workers, we need self-directed people…who can find creative solutions to some very tough, challenging problems.” —Mark Maddox, Human Resources Manager at Unilever Foods North America

Initiative. Entrepreneurship. Two words that form the heart of our learning experience at LoSU.  Students will learn about economics, producing, markets and marketing as they work on the farm. They will be responsible for researching and analyzing market demographics and other pertinent data to develop a farm product. They will learn how to bring it market and how to promote it. Most importantly, they will be responsible for reviewing the results of their labors and refining processes and/or promotions to attain better outcomes for their products. 

5. Effective Oral and Written Communication

“The biggest skill people are missing is the ability to communicate: both written and oral presentations. It’s a huge problem for us.” —Annmarie Neal, Vice President for Talent Management at Cisco Systems

LoSU students will quickly realize they are be required to communicate in our programs. With small class/project sizes and requirements for sharing information, successes, failures, techniques and more, they come to understand that there is no opportunity for shrinking in one’s seat and hoping the teacher does not call on them. This behavior alone will stifle any chances of success in work or college. Our students learn to speak and write. They learn to stand up for what they believe in. They learn to take chances, offer solutions and leave their mark.

6. Accessing and Analyzing Information.

“There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively, it almost freezes them in their steps.” —Mike Summers, Vice President for Global Talent Management at Dell

Information and raw data are part of everything we do here at the school. We aren’t just planting a garden or raising some goats. We are creating product. Students are responsible for researching methods for sustainability, natural production and more. They will be experimenting, collecting data on their results from yields, to pest management to market outcomes. They will learn to assimilate large amounts of information and present their findings through writing, oral presentations, group talks, and more. They will offer solutions and make changes based one their interpretation of the information.

7. Curiosity and Imagination

“Our old idea is that work is defined by employers and that employees have to do whatever the employer wants…but actually, you would like him to come up with an interpretation that you like—he’s adding something personal—a creative element.” —Michael Jung, Senior Consultant at McKinsey and Company

While the farm offers a wealth of learning opportunities, it’s not all that the students do or are exposed to. Through off-farm retreats and enrichment opportunities, students are presented with many possibilities to spark their curiosities and interests. Our staff is always watching to learn what might be a student’s passion or drive so that we can find ways to kindle those sparks. Students will be given opportunities to pursue their interests on and off the farm through field trips, mentorships and internships.

Here at LoSU, we offer a blend of child-centered learning with relevant, project-based learning to engage the students in meaningful way. The students remember what they learn here.They learn to effectively work together. They develop strong work ethic and mentoring skills. More importantly, they develop the desire to keep learning and open their minds to the many possible ways to solve the problems they will face in the future.

Completing the enrollment application does not guarantee a space in the school. Interviews are granted on a first come, first serve basis and eligibility requirements must be met to secure your space. We look forward to sharing these adventures with you!

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