If you or your school is re-thinking what learning can look like in the future, I URGE you to follow along as grades 6-8 at Catlin Gabel School pilot a week that they have been co-designing with their students all fall. Follow on Twitter at #Edlabcgs, and, later in the week on my blog as I spend Thursday and Friday at the school. I will be tweeting and blogging madly.
This is NOT just about a middle school experience. This is a pilot for how a team of teachers at any level, engaging their students as co-learners, implement a school-wide vision that is steeped in deeper learning and “21st century” skills. These are pilots that can be leveraged to change learning throughout the year. Check out the following calendar, goals, and activities for the week, which started by asking the students what THEY wanted to learn/do, allowing teachers to scaffold learning around student voice and relevance.
Wouldn’t you love the freedom to explore rich themes like these with your students? What is stopping you? Yes, I know…college admissions requirements. But this is why we start change one audacious pilot at a time. Because rigid, outdated college admissions protocols will not stand in the way of great learning forever!
So, learn along with the Catlin Gabel experience this week; the following is from a series of email communications from middle school head and edu-leader Barbara Ostos to her parents in the last few days:
The 6th grade theme for the week is Escape, Survive, and Thrive. Students will explore first hand a variety of ways to think about escaping, surviving, and most importantly, thriving. All learning for the week will connect to our essential questions: In an unexpected challenge, how do we effectively engage with others to problem solve? How do we discover what others, including our most vulnerable, feel, value, and need?
- Monday: students will consider how to behave in situations that require collaboration, personal responsibility, teamwork, and communication to literally escape the ever-so-popular escape room. (This was the number one activity sixth graders reported wanting to do during the week!) Students will also explore the concepts of decision-making and how to apply themselves with integrity, compassion and courage to influence behavior in real life situations.
- Tuesday: continues the concept on a personal level. Students will receive basic first aid training by National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) trainers and apply their newly acquired knowledge through scenarios that will be presented during the course. Students will also hike through a predetermined route in Forest Park, rain or shine, where they will reflect upon their own preparedness/readiness for hiking through different weather and terrain.
- Wednesday: the engagement comes one concentric circle closer to focus on family and home. Students will review home emergency plans and make personal emergency kits for the end of year class camping trip, as well as help the school assess and offer feedback for school emergency plans.
- Thursday: students turn their attention to others and the broader community, returning to ideas from their earlier unit on refugees. Students will identify and directly solicit local businesses that can help them to stock an apartment for refugees through Catholic Charities applying effective communication and strategic thinking. Students will also explore an exhibit at Medical Teams International that focuses on real life for children and families affected by disaster and conflict.
- Friday: students will partner with Urban Gleaners to better understand food scarcity and responsible action that they can take on, a continuation of how community can survive and thrive. Friday, of course, will also include reflection and assessment on the whole week to make meaning of the learning and allow students to offer feedback on their experiences.
The 7th grade theme for the week is “What Does Our Future Hold?”: Students will explore this topic in small groups formed around an area of interest, in larger groups during a series of guest speakers, and by visiting off-site locations where “future-thinking” work is happening. Students will think about the future using the simple framework of a prediction, an innovation, or a solution.
- Monday: will be inspirational in nature, with lots of movement and some fun, fast, hands-on activities to get our brains working. Monday will also be our “Future Fair,” where students will have the opportunity to hear a number of guest speakers giving short, TedTalk-like presentations. 10 guests will speak on topics including: architecture, non-invasive diagnosis of leukemia, nano-technology, obesity, and marketing.
- Tuesday: students will begin to develop their projects. The day will focus on ideating and pitching their ideas based on predictions for the future and/or designing solutions for a current or emerging problem. Persuasive argumentation, quick research, and designing will be key for this day.
- Wednesday: We will visit a number of off-campus sites in small groups:
- Nike to explore the future of sports and sports marketing.
- Boys and Girls Club to look at what communities/neighborhoods might look like in the future with a 360-degree services philosophy.
- Oregon Health and Science University to meet with three doctors about the future of medical research.
- Portland State University School of Architecture and the School of Innovation to talk about the future of design.
- Legacy Emanuel Mannequin Simulation Center to look at the future of medical diagnosis.
- PG&E to explore the Future of Energy.
- Thursday: is our big work day. Students will think deeply through doing research and building prototypes based on their predictions, innovations, or solutions.
- Friday: students will produce their “Museum of the Future”. Each group will represent their work in some way, whether that’s a video, spoken presentation, or something they’ve built. Friday afternoon will be reflective, celebratory, and fun.
The 8th grade theme for the week is practical life skills to answer our essential question: What do I need to know how to do in order to thrive independently? Each day will include learning and practicing real-world skills to help students become independent, self-reliant, empathetic, curious, life-long learners who know how to access their resources.
- Monday: students will begin by playing the game of LIFE. This will lead us to a discussion of what ‘real life’ is like, and what one needs to navigate it effectively. We will address those themes in the following three days, where students will rotate through three hands-on full-day activities in small groups: Cooking 101, public transportation, and household maintenance.
- In Cooking 101, students will throw on aprons to practice many of the skills that are necessary to cook safely, efficiently, cost-effectively, and healthily. Students will review mathematical conversion skills, culinary terms, budgeting strategies, and the nutritional contents of some common foods. Students will also have opportunities to refine the following skills: reading carefully, communicating effectively, focusing their attention, delegating to others, and working cooperatively. Students will also learn how to wash and dry dishes and clean a kitchen!
- On the public transportation day (“By Foot, Bus, or MAX”), students will work as a team to explore the real world of daily travel in order to answer the following questions: “Where do I want to go? How will I get there in a reasonable amount of time? What are the advantages and disadvantages to different types of public transportation?” Students will travel in small groups with a teacher chaperone to five destinations around the city. As a group, they will independently plan out, map, and navigate their day. In the process, they will practice and develop their skills in time management, budgeting, communicating with others, and working cooperatively.
- For the household maintenance day, students will learn and/or practice regular household chores essential to independent living. Think basic tasks to keep your living space clean! Yes; students will learn how to do their own laundry!
- On Friday students will pull it all together by reflecting on their learning, and then presenting it to their peers in a fun and engaging way.
More to come this week; lurk on Twitter and see what might work at your school!