This was taken in one of the science labs at SLA last week and it reminded me of a few things, the most prescient being that I love the idea of a school organized around a few wonderful, core ideas. Chris Lehmann has this school humming from what we could see, and I have to think that these ideas are essential to his early success.
In a school here in New Jersey where I used to teach, we had similar organizing principles, called the Quality Standards, by which the students were held accountable for the richness of their work. These here are more geared to the high school level and the methodologies that SLA is employing to reach those goals. Ours were more centered around the middle school mentality and establishing habits in the type of work students produced. They looked something like this:
- Following Directions- the ability to perform the tasks asked of you
- Presentation- how your work appeared to others when finished
- Supporting Details- was your work substantiated
- Connections- were you able to make a meaningful connection from your research to something outside of the scope of the project
- Higher Level Thinking- the ability to synthesize and evaluate in your work
- Evaluation and Revision- your work showed that you had spent time in thought evaluating your finished product
From looking at the SLA model in comparison, I can see that the focus has shifted in education to reflect a new skill set. We want our students to be able to competently show us their abilities in some form–it’s the creative component that we keep hearing so much about through people like Dan Pink.
Having been to SLA, but not really having spoken to Chris about these values, here is how I have come to interpret them:
- Inquiry- what questions are you asking, and what makes you ask them
- Research- use every attainable and relevant resource available to you to answer these questions
- Collaboration- can you use the technology available to you to create meaning with others
- Presentation- showing an audience what you have uncovered and the medium in which you choose is paramount in order to convey your message
- Reflection- you must be the first one to evaluate the merits of your own research and thought process.
The last paragraph of the Mission and Vision section of their website is what really separates this place from most other secondary institutions at the moment:
At the SLA, learning will not be just something that happens from 8:30am to 3:00pm, but a continuous process that expands beyond the four walls of the classroom into every facet of our lives.
This is where I think we need to move to.