As educators, the dilemma we face is whether we believe students need to check the sense of adventure found in these stories at the doors of our school. Do we believe in creating learning experiences that students look forward to as much as summer vacation? Are we committed to bringing an aspirational vision of school to life?
In all of our schools, educators are working to find ways to respond to these challenges. At Nipmuc Regional, one way we are answering these questions is through the creation of Learning Adventures.
Learning Adventures are non-traditional learning experiences that are fun, active, and build the skills needed for success in the real world. Throughout the year, students and teachers will work together to co-construct Learning Adventures in courses across all departments - finding active, innovative, and meaningful ways to ignite students’ curiosity and develop the competence and confidence needed for success in the world beyond our campus.
While we will develop Learning Adventures in Nipmuc’s courses, we’re also excited to develop district-wide Learning Adventures. Through the support of the Mendon-Upton Education Foundation, this year a team of 8 elementary students, 8 middle school students, 8 high school students, and educators from each school in the district will design, plan, and explore their own Learning Adventure. Through these non-traditional learning experiences, they will show us how we can reimagine our curriculum in order to bring the MURSD Portrait of a Learner to life.
Beginning this week, we’ve begun the process of seeking student and faculty volunteers to join our adventure. Will they learn to sail? Climb a mountain? Explore an urban adventure? Our team will choose their own adventure!
Learning Adventures are one way we’re looking to reimagine what learning looks like in our school. What are some of the ways that your schools have taken on this challenge? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
As the African proverb goes, “It takes a village…” At the Inspired Learning Project, we are believers that the work to reimagine our schools isn’t a one-person or one school job. Throughout our work, we have emphasized the need to include our entire community, school and beyond, in our vision and our journey. Just as each of you is inspired by a sense of purpose in this work, it is our job to help create this same sense of urgency with our students, parents, and community members to support our work as we reimagine school.
“[Urgency] comes from a lot of places... It certainly doesn’t happen naturally in organizations. Organizations have a general tendency to want to stabilize and just kind of stay there. And urgency goes like this, even with good people. That has nothing to do with it. So you have to understand its importance, you have to be dedicated to wanting to create it, because you see what it can do for you, for the organization, for society. And then you provide the leadership no matter where you are in the organization, to make it happen.” - John Kotter
While we can often find a sense of urgency in some members of our communities, the challenge becomes creating a wide spread sense of urgency across our communities to support this work. With that in mind, the Inspired Learning Team is excited to launch its Inspired Learning Library, designed to help explore these ideas, spark conversations, generate excitement and maybe most importantly build a sense of urgency that will fuel our work as we reimagine what school can be.
You may have seen the new tab added to the website! The Inspired Learning Library is a compilation of books from forward-thinking authors that hold the potential to evoke a sense of urgency about the need to reimagine school. As a living library, the books enter our school and community and are passed from person to person. Check out the Inspired Learning Library tab to learn more about this grant-funded project and how to kick-off your own Inspired Learning Library in your community.
Have suggestions for books that have helped to develop your sense of urgency and fuel your work to reimagine school? Add your ideas in the Padlet below to share your favorites with the Inspired Learning community.
By Maureen Cohen, Assistant Superintendent, Mendon-Upton Regional School District
As many of our districts are immersed in preparations for Open House, it is a prime opportunity to engage our larger community in the shared beliefs and vision we hold for our students. Beginning with the invitations to parents and guardians to come to Open House, continuing through who is greeting them at the door, what messages are we sending?
As a parent and as an educator, I have personally witnessed numerous plots with twists and turns as schools and educators welcome parents to their open houses. On the one hand, I’ve been greeted at the door by name by the principal who shook my hand, asked me how I was doing, and told me how my child seemed to be off to a great start. On the other hand, I have also been at school where no one is there to greet parents as they arrive at the door, no signs were posted, and first-time parents wandered about confused on where they had to go. Which of those two stories would you want to continue reading?
As parents move to classroom presentations and meet their child's teacher for the first time, what will be the dominant narrative they hear? Will it read more like story #1, story #2 or story #3 below?
School Story #1: Our school is focused on....
Wow! There are a lot of you here tonight. I have to be honest, I didn't prepare anything."
School Story #2: Our school is focused on...
I just love working here. I have worked in a lot of different schools and this is one of the most caring and collaborative environment I have been in. The teachers really care about students here."
School Story #3: Our school is focused on...
We are looking for opportunities to engage our parents and community members to bring their experiences in to support our students. Please sign-up if you are interested in volunteering or can speak to our students about your own work experience."
The quotes above are not pulled from fictional tales of classrooms, but are real-life examples of statements teachers have shared at open houses that I have personally experienced over the years. Which school would you want to send your child to if you had the choice?
From classroom teachers to school leaders, we have to be cognizant of all of the messages we are sending out to the community, because these interactions and communications, whether big or small, create a larger narrative about what we believe is important.
This week the Inspired Learning Project team is adding a new feature to the blog: a microcast. Microcasts are a short, condensed version of a podcast structured to share a 1 - 2 quick, but important, ideas. Educators are a busy group and this media is designed for listening on your commute into work, during your shuttle service to soccer practice, or something to think about while having lunch.
Microcast #1 is inspired by Adam Grant, a business professor at UPenn and author of the best-selling books Give and Take & Originals. His work focuses on fostering strong cultures, improving interpersonal relationships, and supporting people as they discover their unique talents. Recently he tweeted:
The ILP team spent some time exploring the idea of "Big Talk" and how we can leverage it to continue to develop real work that matters for our students. Along the way we also discuss Nipmuc's upcoming work with Learning Adventures and the creation of a pre-K-12 Learning Adventure aligned with the MURSD Portrait of a Learner. Give it a listen and share your thoughts.
The movement to reimagine school is picking up steam across the nation. In this episode of the Innovation Hub podcast, WGBH radio host Elizabeth Ross delves into “the why” of school change and how North Dakota is blazing a trail of innovation in American education.
The podcast shares segments of interviews with venture capitalist, ed-reformer, and author Ted Dintersmith, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Northern Cass School District (ND) Superintendent Corey Steiner, and a parent in the Northern Cass School District. Included below are a series of quotes from the podcast, some resources to explore, and some encouragement to let this Innovation Hub episode impact your thinking.
By John Clements, Co-Principal, Nipmuc Regional High School
I recently finished reading Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews. I wanted to share a passage from the book that has stuck with me. Matthews wrote about how on the evening that Bobby Kennedy was shot, Ethyl stayed with him in California. She reached out to family friend John Glenn, asking him to take her children to the Kennedy home in New York. Glenn ushered the kids to their home, and - after putting them to bed - made his way to Bobby’s study. Seated at Kennedy’s desk, he noted a copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson's “An American Scholar”. As he paged through the text, he noticed a passage that Bobby had highlighted. It read:
“If there is any period one would desire to be born in, is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”
It stood out to Glenn - I assume - because it represented the spirit that defined Kennedy and his work. It captures his ability to recognize change, to empathize with those who are strained by our evolving reality, and to celebrate the glories of the past while looking with hope and excitement at the emerging future. Perhaps most of all - it embodies his confidence of purpose in acting to make that change a reality.
As an educator, these lines resonated with me. I believe that education is entering an age of revolution - a time when students, educators, and parents are becoming aware of the juxtaposition of traditional education and the schools of the future. An era in which we stand between two different cultural understandings of what school should be.
I am not willing to suggest that the revolution we are facing rivals the importance of the social justice and equality issues that Kennedy fought for, nor will I draw parallels between our work as teachers and leaders and the fight for civil rights of Kennedy’s era. I will say, however, that I see the challenge to evolve school as a matter of social equity.
We have nearly 1 million minutes of learning time across 13 years with each of our children. We must articulate the beliefs and values that should drive each of those minutes. We must recognize the successes of traditional practice and never shy away from the difficult work of evolving the strategies that do not align with our aspirations. Beyond that, we must develop a mindset of action, exploration, and curiosity with an appreciation that - as Emerson says - “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”
Our Launching Modern Learning course is self-paced and totally online. There are no synchronous meeting requirements, and you can begin when you're ready and have lifetime access to the course! For each objective below, you'll get challenging explorations, a bevy of curated resources and real-life school examples, and specific project ideas that will help you move the work forward.
We're looking forward to working with teachers and leaders as we explore the important work of reimagining school!
Through extensive research, Mehta and his co-author Sarah Fine investigated provide background, context, and guidance about how schools shift from traditional practice to learning that focused on mastery, identity, and creativity. We were honored to have the chance to discuss this ambitious and impactful book during this Inspired Learning Project/MURSD Leads event.
The essence of inspired learning is being bold enough to move away from traditional practices in order to live an educational reality that reflects our values about what school could be. In this month's digital conversation, we had the privilege of interviewing Sutton High School (MA) Principal Ted McCarthy to learn about how his school has brought its value of social justice to life for their school community.
In this conversation, he discusses Sutton High School's Connections Conference which provided speakers, workshops, and activities about issues related to bias, prejudice, and privilege. Through the collaborative leadership of students and teachers, the conference brought together more than 500 guests from across Massachusetts for a day of conversation, reflection, and connections.
We enjoyed speaking with Principal McCarthy not only to learn about the courageous and meaningful program but also to learn how a school community can go from "idea to action" in creating programming that reflects their beliefs about learning.
As a follow-up to our February conversation, we're excited to share out information about Rise: Voice of a New Generation - a documentary about Idaho's One Stone. Check out the description of the film from the school's website and learn about how to tap into their inspiration by screening the movie for in your community.
ABOUT THE FILM:
Rise: Voice of a New Generation captures the story of One Stone, a one-of-a-kind, student-led high school in Boise, Idaho, that is reinventing education and changing the balance of power to put students in charge of their own learning. The film documents the journey of students and coaches at the school as they launch what has been named one of the most progressive schools in America by both Alan Gottlieb (co-author of America Succeeds’ 2017 report Age of Agility) and Tom Vander Ark (CEO of Getting Smart). Follow the story of one of the only schools in the country run by students who are exploring a new way forward, where their voices shape the future of education and the world.
Chronicling the second year of operations of the radically different One Stone high school throughout 2017-2018, our embedded film crew captured a historical year that could mark a tipping point in the future of high school design.
Click above to share a practice that promotes student agency, ignites students' passions, or creates a bridge between classrooms & the real world.
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