I rarely post a prequel of a school visit, but I am so STOKED about the day I get to spend at All Saints Episcopal School in Ft. Worth later this month. When we find schools and school leaders that are really taking a new tack in learning, we need so share and celebrate. Plenty of that here!
I was invited to ASES as part of their visiting scholars series of the Tad Bird Honors College. The Honors College is a four-year upper school program that “encourages students to develop tailored, customized learning experiences in areas of particular interest.” It is “comprised of four core components: intellectual inquiry, service learning, co-curricular experiences, and capstone projects. Challenged by world-class experts and guided by All Saints’ outstanding faculty, Honors College students will identify pressing problems, develop tailored projects, and share creative solutions.”
Director of the Honors College, Dave Ostroff, is using my book, The Falconer, as a lead-in text to the program, so I get to spend most of a day working with freshmen, sophomores, and senior students as (this is Dave’s great expression) we “detox” students from years of school-generated content mastery, and help them develop themselves as mature, self-evolving, self-directed learners in pursuit of their own passions.
- With the sophomores, we have a three hour learning block (great shift in how the school views the quantum packets of learning) and I will lead them through an experiential discovery of the power of systems thinking. Starting with something as simple as a square meter of grass, and ending with the complexities of rural Afghanistan in the turbid 21st Century, the students will have a first taste of the power of approaching ambiguity with a simple tool set of systems thinking.
- With the freshmen, we will steal from our great friends Jill Gough and Bo Adams, and will have the students do a campus walk, observing and recording a short journal reflection, on “how we do school.” They will ask, record, map, and discuss “What if…?” questions as a way of challenging their own assumptions, and those of the school, about their learning pathway through grades 9-12. (I will ask you to follow and interact with the students’ Twitter feed of some of their ideas.)
- The senior AP English class is reading The Art of War, which is at the heart of The Falconer. We will question, discuss, and share their ideas about various interpretations of this classic work, including my own!
- And finally, we will end with a faculty meeting, including students at the session, where we will use a short design-thinking exercise to investigate the dynamic tension so many great schools are experiencing between the strong traditions of the past and the changes we need to embrace for the future. The main goal will be to embed the idea with the faculty that we must model the learning we expect of our students, and that faculty meetings are powerful times for co-learning in our most immediate PLC.
My hosts are worried I will be burned out at the end of the day. (I have a keynote and two sessions to deliver the next day at the ERB conference!) On the contrary; I will be fully energized by working with students, teachers, and administrators who are committed to the path of preparing our students for their futures, not for our past! Look for more prequel information on Twitter and follow-up blog posts.