The Arc

The Arc is the fundamental rhythm of a Brightworks education. With three major arcs each year, students move through a diverse course of study in a series of intensive immersions, emphasizing depth over breadth, integrating and contextualizing the development of skills and domain knowledge.
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The beginning phase of the arc is Exploration, a time to delve into the fundamental questions about a topic – what is it? why is it important? – and also to expand skill bases and introduce concepts through work with related experts as well as field research, structured games, and practice.

In the next phase of the arc, Expression, students build on what they learned in Exploration by creating anything from a structure or art object to an experiment, a research project, or a performance, centered around whatever facet of the arc topic has caught their intellectual interest. Collaborators and experts support students in project management, documentation, perseverance, collaboration, and specific skills to complete their project.

The final phase, Exposition, requires students explain their work to their community and themselves through written and oral presentations, question sessions, and demonstrations. In doing so they develop robust and flexible communication skills and integrate their most recent work into their continuing intellectual and social-emotional growth.

Scheduled-in time for reflection and assessment is an essential moment of pause between arcs, intended for students to have time to write/reflect on process and presentation of their work during the arc. There is also time for collaborators to fully assess each student’s experience of the arc in a written narrative to be shared with students and parents.

Then it’s time to begin again.




Because the basis of a Brightworks education begins with the Arc, we choose topics with great care. Those that work best are simple at first glance; things that even young children could be expected to be familiar with. In proving the school motto “Everything is interesting,” good arc topics contain multitudes of surprises and fascinating possibilities for project work. A topic works best when it functions as a seed rather than an umbrella – when it has facets that reach into many academic disciplines, but when students can start small in their understanding of it and build outward through the phases. An arc topic stimulates curiosity, discovery, and insight when a five-year-old can grasp it, a twelve-year-old can dive into it, and a fifteen-year-old can push its boundaries outward.