WHO WE ARE
Beyond The Box Education (BTBE) is the first alternative school in Barbados. We reside on PEG Farm, St. Joseph and have more than 100 acres of biodynamic farm to work and explore on. In 2016 the leader of BTBE, Gabrielle Logan, realised that there was a need for a more diverse approach to learning in Barbados and so began her two-year journey to construct the most dynamic and engaging school possible. For two years BTBE ran as a learning centre offering schooling to a select group of students who were ready for a change. By 2018 BTBE was officially ready to open its doors to the public and a brand new facility was built on PEG Farm and Nature Reserve. The BTBE student body currently consists of students between the ages of 4 and 18.
We are a Big Picture Learning School, meaning that while we follow the national curriculum standards there is much more going on than in a traditional school setting.
At BTBE each student is assessed individually and has a personalized learning programme created for them. This learning programme encompasses academic goals, physical goals, social goals, independence goals, behavioural goals and most importantly personal interests. Accommodations are made for each of them to have support in any areas they may need it in.
From an early age our students spend a vast amount of time learning in the “real world”. As they get older they are given the opportunity to go out into the job world and work with mentors in positions of their choosing, where they receive performance reviews which go into their graduating portfolios. There they gain invaluable experience for their adult life and are able to truly understand what drives them and where they wish to end up.
At BTBE our goal is to inspire our students to want to learn more. We create independent students who want to gain more knowledge and who know exactly how to find it. At the end of each term they have the opportunity to display this to their advisors (teachers), mentors, parents and peers in a project that they have engineered personally. We have found that this causes students to take ownership of their work and sets them up perfectly for university or the working world, whichever they choose.
An interview with our founder, director, principal, programme coordinator and BTBE mother, Gabrielle Logan:
That's a lot of hats! How do you wear them all?
Ha! That's not half of them! You should have seen me trying to use Quickbooks last night. It's not easy, but this school is everything to me so I give it everything I have. It also helps that I have an amazing team behind me and a very understanding family at home!
Why start another school in Barbados?
This isn't just another school. It's one of a kind, BTBE is so much more than a school, it's a family, a school that does so much more than teach. Our students get exposed to things here that they would never see in a traditional school. I wanted to create a home for everyone that inspired each of my students to do more, not more math and English, but more community service, more inventing, more speaking out, more learning. I really don't care if they can take notes all day and recite them back to me, I care if they can argue the impact of global warming on the planet and create a global initiative to stop it.
Why is BTBE so different from other schools?
When you were at school, did you know how your food was grown as raised? Our students do. Our location alone gives us an advantage that no other school here has. There are so many components to biodynamics that our students will learn in their time at BTBE. Our students get involved in everything, they learn from people in the real world, they get their hands dirty, they're given opportunities to explore the things they want to learn about. I can not impress on you enough the difference it makes to learn something that interests you rather than something that is chosen for you or be exposed to something rather than told it. Also, as far as I know, no other school on the island has an internship programme for their seniors.
What does being a Big Picture School mean?
Oh wow! So much! Big Picture Learning is everything we believe in: looking at one student at a time, internship work, learning through interest, learning in the real world, the list is long. It also means that we get to be part of a global education family that thinks like we do. They have courses and online systems that support all of our work here that we use constantly. For all of our staff, including myself, it also means that we have mentors to look up to and people we trust to go to when we need advice.
Do you think your students are missing out on anything they would have learned in traditional schools?
First, let me say that traditional schools are not all bad, they are just constrained by the system and its expectations, but they still have positive aspects. I am not bashing mainstream schools. I will say though, that everything our students would have gotten in mainstream school they can get here. They can still ace tests, though I'd rather they not be assessed by traditional standardised tests, they still have to learn their times tables, they still learn how to spell and write essays, they just get a whole lot more!
Did you always plan to open a school? How did you get here?
Definitely not. When I decided to go into teaching the vision I had was of working in a traditional school. I loved school and wanted to share that with children. After teaching in a traditional school I noticed that not everyone felt the same way I had as a child. I worked for a bit in behaviour therapy and realised that also wasn't for me, so I started homeschooling students who weren't coping in school. While doing that I began to realise that they weren't the problem, the system was, they all loved learning, they just learned differently and were drawn to different things. A seed was planted and I started to research alternative teaching, people like Sir Ken Robinson became my inspiration and then, after more research than you can imagine, I found Big Picture, a whole family of educators that believed in everything I did. Alas, I decided that it was time Barbados got its first Big Picture school and here we are!
Last question, I hear you talk about family a lot, what does that mean for you in terms of your school?
It means everything! It means that I can't sleep at night because I worry about my students constantly, it's a bit ridiculous, it means that when they fight it hurts me, it means that I would go to almost any length to help them succeed, it means when they have bad days I do too, it means my staff are my co-parents and above all, it means that we all work together, we deal with things that come up as a family and I hope they all know that they can rely on me.