Now that the structure and content of Innovation Lab is beginning to take shape, we thought it would be useful to share our vision of how a student’s time will be divided in the program. Students will participate in three distinct learning experiences: seminar, studio, and module. Each is described below in the context of the opening sequence (roughly one week) of the first unit in order to help you better understand what the program is going to look like–at least from the perspective of the Humanities. Please feel free to attend the lunch on Friday, comment below, or email anyone on the InLab team. Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome.
The first quarter of Inlab focuses on the idea of “Intellect” and the essential question “How do we think, how do we choose and who decides?” In Humanities, the unit begins with a seminar entitled “Open to Interpretation.” Meanwhile, in STEM, students apply the same unit question to data about climate change. Take a look Brian’s whiteboard drawing below to get a feel for the week from their perspective. Seminars are co-taught and designed to give students the opportunity to discover new concepts and ideas in a hands-on learning environment. The Humanities opening seminar revolves around the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. However, both the history and literature are studied through the lens of “Intellect.” For example, in our opening seminar, statistical thinking is used to discuss the wealth inequality of the era, the concept of narrative fallacy frames our study of Horatio Alger and the rags-to-riches story, and media bias is examined through investigating the impact of the muckrakers on American society. The seminar acts as a launching point for students to explore and apply these concepts to subject content or current events in their studio time.
Studio time can either be individual or collaborative and relates to one of the concepts discussed in the previous seminar. After our first seminar, students are asked to apply one of the concepts studied to a current event or work of literature. The question “How does ______ impact how we think today?” provides a framework for students to guide their research. For example, a student may choose to look at the impact of a particular media outlet on political thought and then apply some of the concepts discussed in seminar to their project.
The independent and collaborative work done in seminar and studio is supported by modules. In the English module, Huck Finn is examined as a work of satire and social commentary, while students in the Social Studies module study the historiography of the Progressive Era. A Math module may ensure a student hits a required CCSS standard, like domain and range of functions. Modules allow students to deepen their understanding of the content and explore the discipline in a more concrete fashion.
Not only do STEM and Humanities share common unit themes, they are also integrated in various seminars throughout the quarter. For instance, Math and Humanities run a seminar on Logic and Decision Making. Logic is discussed in terms of mathematical conflict, important Supreme Court cases of the era, and in the context of poetry and rhetoric. Concepts are then fleshed out in two separate modules: “How do we prove?” in which students are introduced to mathematical proofs, and “Argumentative Writing” where students work on writing and supporting a claim. During studio time, students then apply their understanding of logic to making a viable argument on a topic of their choice.
Likewise, there is also a seminar on the politics of science in which students are introduced to the various laws and regulations that shape environmental policy. In studio time, students research a “decision” relating to climate change and discuss the effect it has had on the environment.
Later on in the quarter, students will also have an opportunity to connect their learning to real-world contexts through field trips and speakers from around the community. Students will then be given time to work on a project that will be showcased in the final week of the quarter. More on that in a later blog post.
While none of this is set in stone, I think it shows two important aspects of Innovation Lab. One, that the content serves a purpose. As someone who loves history, I’m excited that we’ve been able to truly celebrate our disciplines while at the same time teaching them through a lens of utility—the ideas here are important and both strengthen and transcend their particular subject area. At the same time, students are always purposefully engaged, whether in their own independent studio work or in the discovery of new concepts and ideas. While the goals are the same as any class taught in GHS, the different approach will appeal to a group of students who are looking for a more integrated and hands-on learning experience.