Weekly Wrap-up: Staff Lunch Recap, Course Woes, Student Schedules

1. Here’s the recap from our lunch drop-in session (questions in italics, followed by our responses):

  • What do lessons look like? Where do students get the content? Initial interaction with content comes through seminars, which do include guided research components. Example: Perhaps the group breaks for 20 minutes to research an initial question and this generates a content-based discussion. The meat of their interaction with content then comes in the studio, where students research a question/topic and then use that in a unique assignment or for a later discussion. Modules support interaction with necessary standards. (See Mike’s post on seminars/modules/studio here.)
  • What’s the deal with AP classes? The current plan is to offer our cross-disciplinary, flexible, project and problem-based unit plan, based on current curriculum, to students who are excited and interested in this style of learning. The rigor and dynamic nature of the Innovation Lab would allow a student to achieve the same high-level learning of an AP with their own personalized twist. If a student wants to take an AP exam, we will support and encourage them. We are exploring things like Honors options to ensure GPA equality, an especially personalized recommendation letter (in lieu of the current counselor letter), and portfolio options to supplement the transcript. Initial feedback from universities suggests these are all ways to ensure a student has the same opportunity as a student in the larger GHS community.
  • For teachers of freshmen, is it possible to get an Innovation Lab recommendation option in Aspen? We will find out.
  • How many blocks would this be? We are proposing a 5-credit program incorporating English, Social Studies, Math, Science, and a fifth Innovation Lab Design Studio elective that we are proposing to fall under the Applied Arts.
  • What if this program is great for a student in English, Social Studies, and Science, but a student struggles in Math? That’s totally okay. Studio time (both the required amount and optional additional time) is the first line of support. We could always lean on subject-based Learning Center, a resource available to all GHS students. After that, we would do what any other teacher at GHS would do – work with the student and discuss their options.
  • Thank you to the 15-20 people who came and offered feedback on our one-page info sheet and sample student schedule. We are making your suggested edits and bringing them to our update to leadership on Tuesday.

2. Sarah and Brian met Monday with Math/Science and school administration to discuss exactly what sort of flexibility exists in implementing the courses in a different way.

  • Can courses be combined and subsequently completed over numerous years? The answer seems to be no.
  • We’re creating a cohesive unit plan based on current curriculum, but students are coming to us from different courses (ie. Geometry versus Algebra), so what do we do? The tentative plan is to see if planning Algebra 2 for sophomore year is possible, pushing Geometry back to junior year OR allowing students to double up on similar subjects.
  • Will the adoption of Next Gen Science Standards affect a student’s trajectory in science? Yes. Sarah is working on putting plans together to account for future change and may need to propose a pilot course.

Those are the highlights, but it should be noted that all admins present were beyond helpful, suggestive of new ideas, and patient. Major thanks to them.

3. Our outreach to higher ed continues. We are planning to contact every school that received 20+ applications in the past three years from students of GHS. Last week, we spoke with NYU and UPenn. We’ve scheduled either phone or face-to-face conversations with UConn, NYU (again), UVM, Yale, BC, and Harvard. We’re waiting on responses from Fairfield U., Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, Iona, and Columbia. These are not exhaustive lists.

4. We video conferenced with Studio Schools in the UK and chatted with a wonderful woman named Tisha who explained their inseparable connection to business and community. They’re a cool project expanding exponentially in England.  (6 min TED talk about them.)

5. Kim Eves was kind enough to drop in on Tuesday and chat about messaging, PR, and our ideas to engage students, parents, and the community about the Innovation Lab. Her feedback was extremely helpful and it reminded us of what those outside of the high school might be thinking or asking.

6. We worked a ton Thursday and Friday on a sample student schedule, a one-page info sheet, and other docs to show staff at lunch today and anyone else willing to give us feedback. More polished versions will be posted in the near future.

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