Amongst the premium schools opening this September in Dubai, is one of America’s most renowned International Baccalaureate (IB) schools – Dwight.
Founded in 1872, Dwight was the first school to offer the complete IB curriculum in the United States.
The founding principal Janecke Aarnaes guided us on our tour of the schools’ construction site. The school is being built on a 12,000 square metre plot and the built up area will be 26,000 square metres.
We entered from the main reception, which was not only massive but full of natural light and one part of the school ready to welcome parents. There were maps and rendered images put up on easels for us to see and get our bearings.
The first phase of the building will have two wings. The building is ground plus three floors, of which the third floor is an outdoor area that can be used for play as well as outdoor learning.
The school has been designed according to the Dwight philosophy centering on the concept of community. Ms Aarnaes, the principal told us: .
“The New York team as well as the Spahn family have been involved in the design of every other area of the school. The design philosophy is based on the IB, and the Dwight way of learning, which is not confined to the classrooms. We have plenty of outdoor areas where learning can take place, there’s plenty of shade to offer community activities and an abundance of light as well. We also have provision for solar power.”
To the left side of the reception is the admin area and admission suites that are ready and furnished.
We then crossed over to an outdoor area from which we entered a classroom that was fully furnished for parents to see. The showcase classrooms are spacious, with huge windows for natural light and having flexible furniture to accommodate different learning needs.
The ground floor will house the Early Years and the primary classes with every class having their own outdoor play area, where they will learn - amongst other things - about organic gardening and farming.
All classes will have Apple TV and a huge writable wall for teachers and students. As for devices, all children will have their own iPad. Explained Ms Aarnaes:
“The school will provide individual iPads to each student, they only return it to the school once they leave or graduate. They can take their devices home to show what they have learned to their parents. IB is about researching and we want to provide our students with the tools to develop the right research skills.”
Our team was impressed with the wide corridors that we were told will also be used as collaborative spaces for students.
There is a separate primary reception overlooking a Makers Space that is for Early Years students only. In this space there will be woodwork, recycling projects and primarily a workshop space for children.
The first thing you see when you climb up the school's massive staircase is the library, which, once finished, should look absolutely stunning.
The principal was quick to point out that “this will be the place where students will learn how to do academic research, an essential skill required for universities.”
From the library, we went to see a space that will be dedicated to Dwight’s entrepreneurial facility, its 'Spark Tank', which allows a student to take an idea they have, and develop it all the way to being a physical, practical end product. This does not have to connect with anything that they are doing in a classroom setting.
On one level the Spark Tank has huge glass panels overlooking the school campus. At this level there will be the studios for laser cutting, wood work, 3-D printing etc. A staircase from this level leads to the second level, which will have collaborative spaces.
The school will have a number of specialist rooms, science labs, various sports facilities and an auditorium once both the phases are finished.
The school will share after school activities, bus service and clinic, which will be run by King’s College Hospital London with Brighton College.
Dwight will make sure there will be time to finish all academic work in the school day itself with no work to take home. “No homework does means that the school day will be longer, explained Ms. Aarnaes. "We will start from 8 am and work until 3:45 pm. After this there will be after school activities which will start at 4 pm for for students from Grade 1 onwards."
The school has a total capacity of 2000 students, however on launch in September 2018, it will offer Pre-K up to Grade 10.
“Initially, we are aiming to start with one class per grade year, with the early years classes having 20 students each, and 24 children from Grade 1 onwards.”
As for enrolments, the school says it has seen considerable interest from Dubai parents. Ms. Aarnaes told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com:
“We aim to fill all the classes in each year..."
Teacher recruitment is complete with 40 academic members of staff coming from all over the world, including some from its sister Dwight schools in New York and London.
Dwight, like its neighbour, Brighton still has some way to go to be ready, but by the time staff arrives in the beginning of August, the school should be putting the final touches to the classrooms.
Dwight is going to offer something quite new for Dubai parents, and while the school is the definition of an ultra-premium when it comes to fees, it is already visible in its facilities and spaces that this will be one of the most ambitious schools in the emirate in terms of the scope of its offering for students. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com looks forward to seeing its sparks flying as the building gradually comes to life this September.