|Teachers at The Future Project are called Dream Directors,|
and the school has a Curiosity Director. We love that!
Last night, Penina Warburg, Pearl Mattenson, Jeff Kiderman and I [Tikvah Wiener] went to a workshop by The Future Project entitled Reimagining High School. From the moment we stepped into the building on Front Street, the office The Future Project shares with, appropriately enough, an animation studio, education felt different. The "office" is a warm, fun environment; it looks like a house, with its brick walls, fireplace and wood floors, and it's decorated with playful and thought-provoking objects, such as an ornately framed portrait of a wide-eyed baby, twisted iron masks with student-made portraits beneath them, and a wooden sled. The decor of the building reinforced the notion that the visual stimulation students receive in their learning environment is crucial to igniting curiosity and excitement about learning.
The evening began with a panel comprised of Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators; Scott Kaufman, who recently published Ungifted, a post-Howard Gardner book about the need to redefine intelligence so we don't penalize children with labels; Iltimas Doha, a student we hope to work with on his education reform projects; and another amazing and articulate student, a senior who has already created her own company. The panel participants, each in their own way, drove us to imagine what high school would look like if, in The Future Project's terms, it was a place of dream building and curiosity creation, rather than a warehouse for standardized testing. RealSchool also loved the fact that a Harvard Fellow, Tony Wagner, was onstage with students not even out of high school. Go, #stuvoice!
By the way, have you seen Tony Wagner in action?
Tim Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics, moderated the panel and got the audience talking about how we're already reimagining high school. We were energized by the ideas we heard:
* One woman said her Muslim school begins the year by having all the students walk to the school garden where they bury the word "CAN'T." They mourn and lament the word and then return to the building whereupon can't is a bad word, and school is a place where there's no cursing. Therefore, if a student says, "I can't," she'll get a response along the lines of "We don't say that word in this school!" You get the picture.
* Angela Maiers said she had just left a school in Philadelphia that's having its seniors come up with a solution to a real-world problem. Students had to find something in the world that breaks their heart, come up with a plan to solve the problem and then submit genuine proposals to relevant organizations. Obviously, such a project is right up RealSchool's alley.
* Another audience member pointed out that a lot of schools have already reimagined high school and are doing exciting and innovative things with their students. The schools this participant mentioned included:
Science Leadership Academy, which we wrote about after we visited
The Met School, in Providence, Rhode Island, created by Dennis Littky, an awesome educator and visionary
Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in the Bronx
At the end of the panel, Tony Wagner charged us with the task of coming up with a new way to explain what having a high school diploma means. If a HS diploma is no longer going to mean students have "served a certain number of hours of seat time" or taken x number of tests, what should having a high school diploma certify? We were directed into the "Visions Tables" we had selected online, prior to the night of the event.
Making as Learning
I had chosen Making as Learning, so our group's task was to decide on how creation was going to be a process of the high school experience. The result of our session was that we felt a high school diploma should mean that:
Students have engaged in the process of making with the self and with others and have also engaged in the process of teaching what they have learned and accomplished to others. Students should understand the purpose of making and should have created an artifact(s) of importance to them and/or to the world.
Thus our competency emphasized the need to master creation as an individual, in a group and as an instructor.
Social and Emotional Learning
This group's competency was also deeply important. It emphasized students' needing to demonstrate self-awareness and social awareness; the ability to recognize feeling states and to self-regulate their feelings. It required students to be in touch with body, mind and spirit and to have experienced a relationship of deep trust that would enable them to take risks, endure failures and express the vulnerability that leads to being known, seen and heard.
We also heard some comments during the night that we loved:
One woman said she starts her year wishing her students lots of failure. She tells her students, "I hope you make a lot of mistakes, because mistakes are how you learn."
We know that! That's why we made our failure wall: FailSafe: RealSchool Failure Wall
Here are some of our favorite recent additions:
That moment 7 hours ago when you thought you were going to do your homework.
I was trying to teach youngsters how to throw a frisbee and I hit an old woman in the face with said frisbee. True fact.
Another thing we loved was a comment during a discussion about reassessing assessment. When process is more important than a final answer, we can appropriate from the language of gaming and start-ups:
We need to learn when to pivot and when to persevere.
Great stuff from a great night. Thanks to The Future Project for being such an inpiration!