It is always GREAT to see proof that expansive design-based thinking leads to tangible change. Last June I was honored to spend nearly three days with the faculty and staff of several schools in Winnetka School District 36. Winnetka has a decades-old commitment to progressive education rooted in the legacy and presence of none other than John Dewey himself. Superintendent Trisha Kocanda and “chief innovator” Maureen Chertow Miller asked us to re-think and articulate what true progressive education means in the first quartile of the 21st century, and how that might continue to enrich the lives of their students.
In short, the directive to faculty teams was to “commit to at least one innovative project designed to respond to the question ‘How might we dramatically embed experiential learning as the core of our classroom learning experience?’”
Now, in the middle of the following year, after ongoing, inclusive discussions at the respective sites:
- Crow Island School and Skokie Schools are overhauling their schedule to improve the student experience. Since September they have gathered community stakeholder data, researched what other schools are doing, and are developing options for longer blocks of uninterrupted instructional time.
- Greeley School: 3rd and 4th grade teachers developed “campfire meetings” time where students from the grades are mixed and formed into small groups for collaborative games. The activities promote collaboration, problem solving, and development of deeper personal relationships. And they are fun!
- Hubbard Woods School has begun to develop a range of opportunities for students to interact with the outdoors, including a new food garden.
These are not radical changes because Winnetka 36 starts from a less “traditional” learning format. But the most important step in the progress of school innovation is to align what you do each day with your stated vision of learning, and these four schools are intentionally doing just that. Congratulations to all on your hard work and progress!
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