Harry A. Conte West Hills is located in the Wooster area of New Haven. It is one of the oldest magnet schools in the City. Conte is a school of Expeditionary Learning. Expeditionary Learning partners with schools and it is based on the ideas of school reform developed by the founder of Outward Bound, German educator Kurt Hann. (Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, 2011). “Harry A. Conte West Hills Magnet School of Exploration and innovation uses the resources of our community members to offer a challenging, integrated curriculum that inspires students to become active, independent learners on their academic and social journey toward excellence” (Conte West Hills Staff handbook, school mission statement 2015-2016).
In the past, Conte’s student body was diverse. The income and the race of students were composed of multiple family types. It included middle class, highly educated families and an even mixture of white and black families. Over the past ten years, the population of the students has changed greatly. As more immigrants are enrolled at Conte, the enrollment of white students has practically disappeared. Currently, there are 643 students enrolled at Conte West Hills. Of the 643 students, 308 of them are bilingual students, 294 of whom are Hispanic students. 284 of Conte Students are African American or black students (schoolnet.com/myschoolnet/Conte-West Hill).
To address students’ academic and social emotional concerns, and to instill self-pride in the students racial, cultural or gender identities, and create a sense of school community, Conte participates in Crew activities. Teachers will teach this unit during “Crew.” Crew meets for half an hour, four times per a week.
Crew is taught in order to build character, integrity, and love for learning and exploring. Crew seeks to establish and develop positive school culture by using literature to bring community together, “Crew promotes shared understandings and encourages all community members to become crew members not passengers” (Expeditionary Learning, 2008). The lessons taught during crew allow the school community to create open and safe relationships with their peers and their crew leaders/teachers. Crew leaders strategically plan their lessons to address and assess multiple academic goals, as well as social emotional goals that are based on teaching students holistically (academic, social, physical, psychological, and ethical). Crew ensures that each student’s needs (academic as well as social/emotional) are met and individual strength is discovered. Crew meetings involve the whole class and are held in the beginning of the school day. Crew leaders develop lessons that have specific learning targets to support students’ character development and or address school wide concerns.