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Independent School Thrives by Providing Students a Balanced, Collaborative Education

February 24, 2020
Muhammad Ramadan
Thaden School in Bentonville, Arkansas, helps students build real-world skills and connections to their community

My goal as a teacher has always been to help others find their passion and provide students with tools that allow them to succeed and contribute to society.

I teach at Thaden School in Bentonville, Arkansas. I am an educational technology specialist and a member of the history and social science department.

Thaden opened in 2017 as a brand new independent school option for students in Northwest Arkansas. We offer small classrooms – you'll see anywhere from six to 15 students – so the students and teachers know one another in a collaborative setting. There's a real sense of community.

New School Options Improve Student Education in Northwest Arkansas
At Thaden School in Bentonville, Arkansas, students learn in interactive classrooms and can take their education on a trajectory that lets them follow their passions. The Walton Family Foundation is working to ensure all students in the region receive a great education at a school that fits their individual needs.

In our mission statement, we talk about creating a balanced education where the whole student develops – whether it is their academic abilities, their connection to the community, or how they view themselves as a citizen of the world.

We have discussion-based, interactive classrooms for all subjects, whether you're learning about political science or about how to design and construct a bicycle. For students, it creates a feeling that "Hey, I know my teacher and my teacher knows me."

Teacher Muhammad Ramadan says Thaden School is committed to personalizing learning for every student.

The cool thing about Thaden is that it provides students the opportunity to take their education on a trajectory that fits their needs and lets them follow their passions.

If they have a strong interest in being a craftsman, they can go that route. If they are interested in that four-year university experience, they're going to get that opportunity. Students have so many ways to learn in this community.

Our Meals, Reels and Wheels programs are great examples of our approach.

‘Meals’ brings students into the kitchen and into our on-campus garden to create a farm-to-table experience. They learn about how we produce the food that we're eating, how to be creative in our design of that food and how food fits into culture.

Thaden students prepare meals grown from vegetables harvested from the school's garden.

Our 'Wheels' program allows students to be very hands-on. They're learning how to be artisans when it comes to the bicycle. They're thinking about how we use bicycles, the infrastructure we need to support bicycles and developing skills to repair and assemble bikes.

The ‘Reels’ program teaches students how to be documentary filmmakers and how to develop a better sense of the important stories we want to capture in a moment and preserve for the future.

All those signature programs – Meals, Wheels, and Reels – go beyond the realm of academia and build real-world connections and real-world skills in our students.

Thaden's ‘Wheels’ program gives students the skills to repair and assemble bicycles.

What I love about Thaden is that it’s so unique and diverse.

You rarely find this perfect connection between people of so many different areas and backgrounds. We have teachers from two dozen states and people who have lived here all their life. We have people that have come as far as Taiwan. There's a lot of experience.

More than anything, the school reflects the full diversity of Northwest Arkansas. It's a group of people coming together for the betterment of their region.

Thaden is also a part of a larger education community in Northwest Arkansas that focuses on improving student learning and personalizing student learning. People here are thinking very intentionally about how to be innovative and provide a better classroom experience.

Students aren’t the only ones who benefit. I learn something new every single day.

I hope that whatever I'm giving to students, they can take it and use it to help someone else.

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