TODAY | October 27, 2012
>>> now to a school in the middle east that's trying to break the mold for girls and boys . it's called the kings academy because it was borne out of king abdullah . the school is thriving.
>> reporter: in a region steeped in conservative tradition, a modern laboratory of learning is breaking new ground. where boys and girls study together, play side by side and can even use dance to express themselves freely. this is not your typical middle eastern school . instead, it's one preparing students for whatever life's punches come their way. and to bring a new vision to a region that's been marooned in turmoil for generations. it was king abdullah 's generation at deerfield college in massachusetts that inspired this model academy.
>> independence of thought. the ability to reason critically. a respect for different points of view. those are the intellectual values that we value here.
>> reporter: the school 's mission is to bridge the gap between rich and poor in the region. nearly half the students receive financial aid . and while boys slightly outnumber girls, in the classrooms, all are encouraged to think creatively. like using current magazines to label classic american involves.
>> fear and shame. i like those words.
>> reporter: all on this idyllic campus where boys and girls live together, but in separate dorm. at the heart of the school is the dining hall , where more than 400 students from over 30 countries serve one another. breaking more than one traditional norm.
>> there's a lot of backgrounds in the school and there's a lot of people with different ideas.
>> reporter: teachers and pupils, seniors and freshmen sit side by side , all to encourage equality and a little co-ed camaraderie.
>> coming from saudi arabia , for you to be in a classroom with girls, it must be a new experience for you.
>> it's actually quite nice. it's different.
>> reporter: it's not just campus living that's challenging. in class, no subject is off-limits. today's history lesson, controlling population growth by using birth control.
>> would there be any man in this room that's willing to sterilize themselves?
>> you have to learn about this stuff. if you don't learn about them now in school , you're never going to learn about them.
>> reporter: although it has a global outlook, the school has a strong commitment to its arab identity and culture, offering foreign students a chance to learn arabic for a year.
>> how is your arabic?
>> i haven't learned that much yet.
>> our students are very smart young people that are global citizens. they're aware of all issues happening around the globe at large.
>> that's partly due to the king himself, who frequently comes and talks to the students about everything, including the arab spring.
>> he tells me that those are the questions that he fears the most because you never know what those young people are going ask.
>> at a time of tremendous change and challenges, jordan's leaders are hoping this educational oasis in the desert may prove to be the region's source of new leaders and problem solvers.