Can your school afford to take two weeks off from normal classes and still meet your learning objectives? Most schools have trouble finding a spare 15 minutes a week in their busy schedule. Two weeks? Not possible.
Yet it is, and Pomfret School is proving it right now. The entire school is taking the time between Thanksgiving and the holiday break for Project:Pomfret, “a two-week interdisciplinary project-based learning period, scheduled to take place in December of 2013, when faculty and students will step outside the classroom to focus on thematic projects.” Groups are focusing on issues of food, the environment, energy, writing, regional history, engineering, and so much more.
Yesterday teacher Ellen Browne asked me to Skype into her group: they are working with a nearby elementary school to research and practice what it means to teach 2nd graders. What are they learning through this experience?
- Little kids will test your patience.
- Deciding what battles are worth fighting.
- Creating their own lesson plans.
- How to sustain collaborative groups.
- Meeting other people on their own level, both physically and through language and interest.
- Balancing focus with the natural energy of little kids.
And more. What a great practicum of “21C” skills! And they are doing it within a framework that THEY chose and helped to design, just like all of the students in all of the other Project:Pomfret “classes”.
Are these students at risk of doing less well on their AP or SAT exams later this year? Of not getting into a good college for taking these two weeks away from class? I really don’t think so, and neither do they. I applaud the Pomfret community for taking the risk; it is a risk and I am sure, as at any school, there are members of their community who DO feel it is a radical misdirection of a precious resource: time. But Patrick Andren, Dean of Teaching and Learning says,“Feedback and involvement have been phenomenal so far, both in the diversity of the projects, and the diversity of really inventive thinking.”
Is this program right for your school? I don’t know. But taking a risk IS right for all of us!
And check out what schools in Iowa are doing during similar “inquiry blocks” in January, via Scott McLeod:
Great article, Grant. We’ve got some school districts here in Iowa that are doing 2-week PBL and/or inquiry blocks:
The Miami Valley School in Dayton, OH has been doing 4 weeks of immersion for decades. Our students test well and explore their passions. http://www.mvschool.com/academics/division-curriculum/immersion/
Great piece. I can’t wait until we stop thinking of this as “taking two weeks off” and start thinking about it as the norm–embracing the invaluable experiences and learning that will inevitably transpire. I’m sure you’re aware that MVUpper is dedicating the first week in January to “Unschool” and our TDed projects. I’m excited to see what the new year brings!