Trevor Day School | New York, NY
Trevor Day School proudly combined the best aspects of both traditional and progressive education—a traditional college-prep curriculum delivered through progressive and experiential methods. And while internally that balance felt like a real strength—and yielded academic outcomes that could stack up against any school in Manhattan—externally it was gaining Trevor little traction.
Trevor needed to shift from claiming a middle ground along the traditional-progressive pedagogical continuum and find a new, authentic identity on their own terms—the z-axis.
Morgan Porzio, Director of Marketing and Communications
In the midst of the hyper-competitive Manhattan independent school landscape, Trevor self-identified as a natural outlier: neither an old-guard traditional school nor a full-fledged progressive school. But instead of serving as a benefit, Trevor’s compromised position “in the middle” resulted in an uncertain external academic identity. Where Trevor insiders saw “the best of both worlds,” outsiders, too often, saw an indistinct muddle.
Complicating matters further, Trevor had raised the funds to erect a stunning new upper school facility on East 95th Street, a move that would jostle the entire school community’s physical locations. On the other hand, the move presented a golden opportunity for new positioning: Trevor would have one of the newest, most thoughtfully designed school buildings in all of Manhattan.
And, if all that didn’t create enough complexity, Trevor was also in the midst of a search for their new Head of School, making the need for articulating the school’s overall identity all the more pressing.
Rather than living in the liminal position between traditional and progressive, Trevor needed to define the school’s pedagogy and institutional identity along an altogether different axis. This third-way, z-axis extended naturally from the school’s existing strengths, notably the unique collaborative spaces of Trevor’s Center and Common Room, where students and teachers spent large portions of each day learning out loud together. Trevor already subscribed to and carried out inquiry-based learning, yet had never explained the school’s commitment to classic texts and models, to experiential and hands-on applications, and to an abiding Socratic model in this way.
Inquiry-based learning proved the first step in solving Trevor’s pedagogical positioning, but didn’t necessarily tie in Trevor’s remarkably inclusive, inviting, and collegial culture that united and inspired students and parents alike. As one parent stated, “Happy children learn more.” But can an independent school in cutthroat Manhattan get credit for making children “happy”? Only by tying happiness to Trevor’s intentional pedagogical approach, which helps students find not just confidence, but fulfilling achievement.
One answer unified Trevor’s inquiry-based pedagogy and remarkably egalitarian and collaborative school culture while ensuring Trevor received long-overdue academic credit: Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia, or creating a life well-lived. In each child’s pursuit of eudaimonia, Trevor invoked the good genius—literally the good indwelling spirit—of each child. Every day, Trevor’s entire community inspires children to find and hone their strengths, to value knowledge for its own sake, and to freely express differing ideas and perspectives in the kinetically collaborative Center and Common Room.
Visually, digital pixilation and the bright primary color palette communicated the energy of Trevor’s inquiry-based program and the interconnectedness of the school community. The entire program evoked the spirit of lives well-lived—all rooted and constructed within this exceptionally thoughtful educational community.
After launching the CRANE program in fall 2014, the Trevor community enrolled the largest middle school class in history for fall 2015. Healthy enrollment continues in the upper and lower schools, along with a considerably improved gender balance in early learning classrooms. But these numbers don’t tell an even better part of the story.
To ensure the program’s continued success over the long term, Trevor and CRANE rethought and reconfigured the communications office from the ground up, transforming it into the school’s office of strategic marketing. This reframing of traditional communications roles led to nearly seamless connections among messages on the website, print materials, and open houses. As a result, prospective parents are now consistently embracing and sharing the program’s key concepts and language—including eudaimonia, inquiry-based learning, and good genius. Because word of mouth remains every school’s best marketing tool, this outcome bodes especially well for Trevor’s future.
Aristotle’s definition of happiness is central to the way we’ve taught our children to approach work and life. Until now, we haven’t found a school that can show them how to pursue eudaimonia. We would love for our family to become a part of this community. –prospective parent