What if every school set aside time for the students and teachers to deeply explore learning through the lenses of key all-school guiding principles? What if we aligned resources like time and teachers around those principles that we think lead to great learning, rather than silo-ed subjects?
Design 39 Campus in Poway continues to blow me away with the depth to which their inclusive teacher-admin-student-community team understands, supports, and evolves to focus on deep learning, while meeting the demands of a diverse, Common Core, poorly funded, public school district. Yesterday I attended a community event where grade 4-6 students presented the results of 12-week “deep dives” into the school’s guiding principles. (The D39C schedule allows 90 minutes roughly every other day for deep dives based on a combination of student and teacher interest/passion.) Yesterday I heard small groups of student confidently articulate their understandings on creative confidence, the use of technology, inquiry, and global connections. I also heard a group discuss design thinking in terms at least as sophisticated as those I have recently heard from some adult educators.
Following the presentations, the students organized a quick feedback session with the parents in attendance, asking them to discuss key takeaways with others in the audience, and provide feedback to the group. I seriously could have hired most of these kids to work with me in my own workshops. I can’t begin to type up all of the priceless quotes of the day that one just does not expect to hear from the mouths of 8-11 year old students.
One of the lead teachers, Megan Power, told me that the deep dives leading up to these presentations included both exploration of the topics and “how to present and organize a community event”. Not a single student resorted to reading their PowerPoint slides; a special cohort of student guides were responsible for meeting, greeting, and guiding the community attendees.
Communication, collaboration, confidence, student ownership, discovery, deep thinking, synthesis, big themes: I saw and heard powerful evidence of all of these yesterday. Unlike many of the schools that I visit, students, teachers, and parents are intentionally aligned in support of the guiding principles of learning that the community has outlined for the school. And many of these students will now move on to be tour guides for D39C, so when you come visit, you will see and hear for yourself.