When was the last time you committed to learning something new? I mean really learned it, not just read one article online but actually studied how it worked, what it meant to different people, and how it could help you and others in your life.
If you’re one of the few ambitious adults who may have done the above, I challenge you to go further. When was the last time you not only learned something new but created such an understanding for yourself that you put yourself out there and shared your new ideas with others? I mean really put time, effort, and heart into backing your new found understanding and creatively shared it with others?
My guess is most have not to the degree that we ask our students to do consistently. (Again, you wonder why we can guarantee that these will be the adults that you’ll want to hire as they get older? That is if you’re lucky and they aren’t already working for themselves.)
For those new to Indi-ED, two hours of our students’ days are spent taking on the above challenge and then some during their Inquiry portion of the day. In 2.5 month chunks that align to our units; they are allowed to investigate a topic of their choice, learn as much as they can about it, coordinate their own experiences that will help them connect to and aid their understanding, and connect to professionals who are already experts at their topic of interest to learn about it in the real world.
If that’s not enough for 8-14 year olds, we then ask them to come up with a creative way to present their ideas. Not to simply memorize or regurgitate content that is easily memorized and forgotten. But to actually own the process of learning for themselves.
Yes, they’re still learning math, science, reading, writing, etc. with the other hours in their days. (And believe it or not, they actually learn the above within their inquiry portion of the day too.) But the inquiry portion is intentionally designed to allow our students to THINK FOR THEMSELVES, to problem solve for themselves, to learn how to use real life social skills for themselves. Which sadly, isn’t even entertained in most schools or if it is, it’s for one project if they’re lucky.
For the first Showcase of the year, we began asking our students to tie their interests into a theme that we’ll be building on throughout the year.
Last year, we tackled leadership and you can hear from one of our students here about how she thought it went.
This year, we began with the idea of communication. Our 8-14 year olds began studying what it means to actually send and receive messages in a positive manner. How body language, facial expressions, tone, reading the whole situation, feelings, and environment all play a role in effective communication. They even started to understand how certain communication styles are more appropriate for certain careers, what alternative forms of communication are (art, music, social media, etc.), and what they need to work on themselves.
Again, I repeat we have 8-14 YEAR OLDS this year!!!
Like the leadership concept, we don’t expect that they’ll know everything they need to about it in 2.5 months. However, we know that they are important to address not to expect kids to just “know how to do.” And we are certainly confident that if we’re taking the time to intentionally expose them to these ideas now and will continually build off of them, that there is no doubt that they will become 21st century leaders and compassionately aware human beings that our community and our world will be searching for.We realize that these are big ideas and big tasks. We also realize that they’re capable. And even if they stumble, that there’s always potential to build and grow from those mistakes.
Would you believe it that in these few hours alone where our students stand up and speak their minds, that we had…
Veteran students building up and supporting our rookie students backstage?
A veteran student who last year couldn’t say more than one line on stage, stand confidently mid stage and SMILE when he addressed the audience!
Students hi-fiving one another and being proud of each other when the finished?
Parents who told us that they cried happy tears on the way home?
Students who stepped out of their comfort zone and walked away feeling proud of themselves?
That we had parents who shared that they’re just now sure how it keeps getting better?
And that we had students the morning after PUMPED to get started on their next one?!?!?!
In my 12 years in education, I have NEVER had students BEG to start a new CHALLENGE!
Getting kids to this point is HARD. Our teachers work TIRELESSLY.
But watching each child stand on that stage (that they built!) to take a risk of sharing their own ideas in a creative expression while finding a bit more confidence in who they are as humans and the world they live in-was absolutely worth it and why this type of education is important.
Our kids are already vocalizing what it means to communicate positively in an interview, how communication with humans and animals is similar and different, the components of effective comedic communication, that music “is what feelings sound like”, and on and on and on.
They may all be wise beyond their years. Or they may just be children who are rising to a challenge when being allowed to do so.
Onward and upward Indi-ED students and families!