- student centredness
- learn by doing (projects/makerspace)
- subjects as lenses not as silos
- community connection
Just this morning, I tweeted my second plea to our MOE to stand strongly beside Principals who were subjected to media stories harrassing them because they did not suspend or exclude bullies. Defending such approaches in the face of parents and the wider community is a very lonely part of the job and requires constant courage. Our MOE needs to be more proactive and vocal and visible.
I was met at the start of the day by Jeremy Spry whom I assumed was a Deputy Principal but he pointed out that because the demands they placed on teachers to deliver the PBL model were huge they used the resource designed to appoint administrators (DPs and APs) instead to appoint more teachers. The school of 500 had a Principal and Co-Principal; everyone else was a teacher. It has been operating for 11 years and a few years ago opened another campus (Beeber) because of the demands they were facing for students to enrol. Enrolment is through an application and interview with a teacher and current student where the candidate brings and presents one of their favourite projects which describe who they are and how they think.
Jeremy explained the concept of Essential Questions which acted as a focus for the projects at each grade level.
|Jeremy explaining the Essential Questions|
In their Freshman Year there are 4 classes of 33 students. They all take 4 blocks a week of English, US History, Bio/Chemistry, Maths and Spanish. They do 2 blocks per week of 'non-elective' electives (Digi Tech, Art, Drama and Engineering). These are seen as the foundation subjects for being able to make quality presentations in multiple ways. Each is done for a semester with Digi Tech always taken in the first semester so that students are comfortable with all digital tools and platforms and the ethics involved in social media.
In their Sophomore Year they have a similar programme but World History and they do 1 "Elective" which is Health. They can also take Certificate Technology Education (CTE) courses which are state wide programmes and include engineering, film and photography. They have 2 lunch breaks because their space is limited (the first is at 10 35 and the second at 11 40). Some students choose to have no lunch break as the CTE courses run during the split lunch times. They can eat and snack throughout the day.
In their Junior Year their science changes to Physics and they can pick up PE (which is only offered at this Year level and you don't have to do as you can pick up your 2 sports credits by playing sport.)
In their Senior Year they must do English to meet College requirements but are free to choose anything else on offer.
An interesting elective many seniors choose is Student Assistant Teachers (SAT). They select a freshman class to attach themselves to and assist students, help them edit their work, take some lessons etc, etc. This was very cool annd I met some neat SATs.
Project Based Learning is the core of all programmes and they follow Wiggins' model of Understanding by Design. I saw the same range of cool project ideas that I have come across. I witnessed freshman students doing group presentations as a result of researching cool reactions and explaining in scientific terms how they worked (Elephant toothpaste!). I saw evidence of projects on the walls:
All students belong to a grade level Advisory and they meet twice a week for 40 minutes from 3 10 to 3 50 which is considered after school as on the 2 other days (Wednesday is ILP) they finish at 3 05. They focus on similar things that other schools with an Advisory model do. They check on progress, grow relationships etc. They (students) speak strongly of it being like their family at school. There are just over 20 in each Advisory.
I had the pleasure of talking with senior student Ari several times throughout my visit. She told me "I am a senior enginneer", and she thought like an engineer when I cam across her in Chemistry working with three other student to find a solution to breaking down the acidity in a lake which had been polluted. Their solution was to spread baking soda from a helicopter and to get people on jetskis to stir it up! Later on I came across her in Engineering. The classs' focus for the year was Assistive Technology and they had been working with community organisations to provide assistive technology. They were currently working on Fidget Spinners which they made and sold to raise funds to design an equivalent for a child without fine motor skills.
|Ari's Assistive Technology Fidget Spinner clamped to side of desk|
|Small makerspace area which had a simiilar sized space to the left with work benches for electronics and other work and a space to the right (smaller) with a 3d printer and laser cutter.|
I loved my visit to this school. Grant Lichtman wrote very favourably about this school in #Edjourney which made me determined to visit. I was not disappointed.
What Have I Taken Away From This Visit?
- I liked the "foundation subjects" of Digi Tech, Art, Drama and Engineering being taught in the first year so that students were supported to be able to make quality presentations in multiple ways to get away from the power point or poster routine
- Student Assistant Teachers is a cool concept which I would like to explore.
- I am becoming more interested in a whole year level being involved in an internship of some type at the same time
- I think we need to find a way of aligning our timetable blocks in a more tuneful way (not quite sure why yet)
- An agreed process of inquiry across the whole school seems like a great idea as it reinforces common language and practices (I know we do this well in Big and Impact Projects - not sure what we do within Modules or Hubs. Looking forward to finding out and seeing if we see it as important)
- The ethic of care was evident in the culture of the school. This must be maintained and strengthened.
|Evidence of ethic of care|
|Cartoon depicting the core of SLA|
Last night we had a wine and cheese with our AirBnB hosts. She is an ex teacher (describes herself as disobedient) and he is a professional musician and music teacher. They brought along 2 friends who are both lawyers with him being a lawyer for a school district in New Jersey. Great conversations were had!
One more day in Philadelphia then we catch a train to New York. It has been very thought-provoking to this point. I have only 1 school to visit there and am looking forward to a bit more relaxation time. I am immensely grateful to the SLT back at HPSS whose commitment to our school and qualty of their leadership have made it OK for me to be away for an extended period of time to renew, refresh and to be reinvigorated.