“What is that? What’s it for? How did you know how to give it to her?” you ask the doctor.
“It’s easy,” she replies, and pulls out a calendar. “She’s 6, and it’s December, so this is what she needs.”
While we’re lucky that this isn’t how hospitals look, this is exactly how many schools look. Our schools are, by and large, driven by two organizing principles:
(1) Learning expeditions. Many schools divide what students learn into chunks of time -- right now we’re doing science, next we’re doing reading, after that, writing.
As adults, we know that the professional world doesn’t work this way. We are asked to use our disciplinary skills in complex, interdisciplinary contexts. What should we as humans do about climate change? About the complexities of global trade? About war and migration? These are not questions that are answered by science in one class and writing in another. They are by nature interdisciplinary and do not have simple, rote, black-and-white answers.
In line with the thinking of David Perkins’ Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World and many of the core principles of the EL Education network, we question the assumption that the majority of a student’s day should be spent passing from subject to subject.
Instead, our 2nd graders are asking: how does immigration affect us? Our K students are asking: where does our trash go, and why does this matter? These questions (and the learning around them) implicate reading, writing, science, social science, fieldwork, and community service without artificially separating these subjects.
(2) Math and Literacy Lab. We know that students learn at different speeds and in different ways. One area where we’re innovating in personalization is in our K-2 Lab, a multi-age reading and math environment. In this space, we create just-right learning experiences for students, regardless of their age, by flexing:
- the pace at which students learn
- the path of learning
- the places where students learning
- the people -- peers and teachers -- who students learn with
Instead of being calendared, our curriculum looks more like a flowchart -- if you know skill A, then you’re ready for skill B. Students demonstrate what they know through assigned classwork, and when they’re ready, they take a benchmark assessment which allows them the “level up” and work on the next module.
This approach is new, and we’re learning and innovating a lot. Our K-2 lab continues to grow and improve, all in service of making sure that students get what they need just when they need it.
A CALL TO ACTION
Lodestar is one answer to a call to make school more student-centered. We’re growing to be K-12 and are beginning to hire for the 2017-18 school year.
However, we know that we’re not alone in thinking that it’s time to rethink and redesign school. We’ve been inspired by the amazing community of teachers, students, parents, leaders, and community members across the country who are tirelessly working to reimagine school.
We invite you to join in the work of redesigning school.
What does this look like at your sites? In what ways can you rethink and reimagine the most fundamental design principles of school? How can the structure of school better prepare students to be lifelong changemakers working towards a more just, healthy, and joyful world?
Robbie Torney, Teacher at Lodestar