So we have been spending a lot of time and energy of late finding ways to inspire our students to lead their own learning. It’s been a true passion of ours as a school over the past few years honestly, to break out of the traditional model of education, and to come up with programs, units, assessments, structures and spaces that are conducive to putting our students at the helm…and it’s been very exciting. I have to be honest though, this change in mindset, curriculum, and approach takes a great deal of planning, and time, and commitment, but I’m happy to say that things are finally starting to stick around here.
I took a casual walk around the school last Friday morning just to see what I could see, and in many ways I was inspired by what I saw…here are few things that stood out for me, and a few examples of how students across our grade levels are starting to take ownership of their education, and how teachers are there as mentors and facilitators…
- A 7th grade social studies class all becoming entrepreneurs, working on their sustainable entrepreneurial projects, trying to create small businesses that will help raise money for Earthquake victims on the coast. A transdisciplinary unit written in partnership with our 11th grade economics classes.
- Our GIN (Global Issues Network) students putting the finishing touches on their projects that they are about to showcase in Panama next week at the regional conference (Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities, and Climate Change). Student inspired projects that have affected local change in our community.
- Students working through the design cycle in our Middle School Design Technology class and Maker Space, finding solutions to the question, “How can we make our school and community better?” Empathizing, ideating, and prototyping
- A 4th grade class of kids sharing passion/inspiration project ideas that they will showcase at our next Inspiration Project morning on March 17th for our community. These projects have taken the place of traditional homework in our upper elementary grades, and have truly inspired our kids to bring their passions to life in any way, shape, or form
- Grade 1 classes reflecting on their Friday morning PYP assembly, where they took on the role of student environmentalists, looking critically at how we can reduce our food waste at school, our use of plants around campus to protect animal life, how we can use our resources (water and electricity) more efficiently…they presented fantastic solutions that will make our campus a greener, more environmentally friendly space for all of us
- Our Life Skills class working behind the scenes to grow their Sweet Morning Charities business, which supports a local charity focused on children with Down Syndrome…researching sustainable coffee growers, training High School and Middle School student volunteers, updating inventory, and modeling a true entrepreneurial spirit
Anyway, what I noticed more than anything was the shift that has happened with our students and teachers all across our school…less direct teacher instruction, more authentic questioning from kids, and ultimately, more engaged, curious, and thoughtful students really looking for ways to lead their learning, and to connect this learning to relevant, real life situations and problems. Like I said, we’ve done a lot of work in this area lately, bringing in Suzie Boss to help us with our PBL (Project Based Learning) journey, digging deep into the Design Thinking model, looking for ways to inspire an Entrepreneurial spirit in our students, thinking critically about how to best use technology to inspire student learning, and writing curriculum that breaks down the traditional, stand alone subject specific approach, and brings cross curricular standards together with an eye on affecting sustainable change in our local community…all good.
I know this isn’t really ground breaking stuff, as many fantastic schools around the world have been doing amazing things in this regard for a while now, but for us, it’s a celebration. I feel like we have just scratched the surface of what’s possible, but we have momentum and passion on our side…and that’s a great start. Keep up the outstanding work everyone and feel empowered to go even deeper. There’s nothing more important that you can do as an educator than to let our students take the helm. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the week…
School can be a torture or an instrument of inspiration – Higgins and Dolva
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