Sunday, April 16, 2017

Our Sandbox

We have described this year for our teachers as a “sandbox” year. As we move our entire system towards a proficiency-based model, we have recognized the need and necessity for our teachers to study, experiment, and play with new tools. From learning management systems and a whole school 1:1 device roll-out to flipped grading practices and utilization of learning scales, our teachers have been practicing, reflecting, and applying new learning to their role as teachers.

At the heart of the ever growing complexity of what the idea of school means, it has become essential for us to embed authentic learning tasks into our classrooms. These real world models and simulations serve as anchors for our work, driving our instruction in intentional directions, and allowing for students and teachers to demonstrate, track, and reflect on their own learning. This work will and does function as the foundation for students to be lifelong learners and contributing members of our community in the 21st century.

Below you will find some examples of how we are building our “sandcastles” here at Hazen.

J-Term

At the end of May, our Middle Level will be engaging in a J-term. Modeled off of the work from Lyndon Institute and many other schools throughout Vermont, our teachers are working to create authentic, hands-on, applied learning seminars. Based off the interests, strengths, and passions of our students, seminars offered will be led by staff and community members to provide opportunities for meaningful learning experiences that are different from what already exists in our school’s curriculum offerings. Teachers will be assessing and providing feedback to students through Schoology, using learning scales tied to transferable skills, as students document their learning through their personalized learning plans.



Students will have the opportunity to dive deep into one of their three seminars, creating a presentation and/or project for our J-Term Learning Expo on June 14th (let us know if you are coming and RSVP here!).


SLIMS, Schoology, and Bears, Oh My!


April Showers Bring Authentic Learning Opportunities (and Flowers)

As we finished up the end of Quarter 3, and the spring to the end of the school year begins, students have been engaging in a variety of awesome authentic learning opportunities:
  • As part of a personalized learning project, a group of middle level students travelled down to Hardwick Elementary School several times during March and April to help teach upcoming Hazenites about the environment, renewable energy, and ways to make a difference. Several times over the past few years TRY for the Environment, an extension of Vermont Energy Education Program, has visited Hazen with the aim of lowering our carbon footprint. The four eighth grade students developed their mentoring experience and made some great connections.

All of this great work happening in and outside of the classroom supports our goal of creating personalization and authenticity within our changing system of education. As we work to build a strong foundation based in best practice, we will continue to embed authentic learning tasks into our classrooms, refine our instructional and assessment practices, and become more comfortable with incorporating new tools with the old in our ever changing sandbox.