This is how schools transform.
Last spring, the community of Lake Ridge Academy gathered to imagine the pieces of their future-focused North Star. It came together as a 1 1/2 page draft with three main pillars that will differentiate the school from any other in the area. Last week they shifted gears to early-stage implementation in a fast-paced set of faculty workshops. Roughly a third of the faculty, 21 teachers, volunteered to spend two days before the start of the year. Based on interests, they landed in eleven different project groups ranging in size from 1-4. Using the North Star as their guiding point, they set out to design prototypes of a pilot that they will trial in the coming year.
Over two days all of the groups completed their prototypes. Some of the areas of focus included:
- Ungraded assessment
- Personalized learning tools
- Outdoor learning
- Community partner development
- Wellness and belonging resources
- Interdisciplinary theme-based learning blocks
- Real-world experiential learning curriculum
All of the pilots were designed for rapid implementation with minimum requirements: low or zero budget impact, viability within the control of the designer as an individual teacher or mini-team, and alignment to some element of the new North Star. Importantly, Head of School, Mitch White, authorized implementation of the pilots BEFORE any of the designs emerged.
During an all-school faculty gathering a day after completion of the prototypes, the 11 groups delivered 8-minute pitch/feedback presentations in EdCamp style. Non-presenting faculty selected three of the 11 mini-sessions to attend, and then reflected on what they had seen and learned, and any initial ideas of their own that might similarly yield a rapid pilot deployment in the coming year.
In essentially three days, the school went from a theoretical articulation of their collective vision goals, to a set of concrete pilots that embody wide swaths of those goals, to a cross-pollination of ideas that will spread in the coming year and well beyond. Longer-range changes that might impact the all-school operating system will be the focus of four, diverse Design Teams that will start to Discover, Discuss, and Design options to help the small pilots grow to scale across the school in the next couple of years.
We no longer take the view that change in a school takes many years or decades. We know, after COVID, that change can happen much more quickly if we prioritize, focus, and nourish. I look forward to reporting on the outcomes and evolution at Lake Ridge Academy over the 2022-23 school year!