Weekly Wrap-Up: Classrooms, Curriculum, and Collaboration

This week, the Innovation Lab team met with a representative from W.B. Mason to discuss designs for our classrooms. During our Trailblazers event, we asked students to submit their own designs for the space next year. Their designs contained a variety of things you don’t see in a typical classroom; students drew beanbags, couches, coffee tables, cubbies–one student even wanted a fish tank. As was promised, we’re using their ideas to help us design an environment that is conducive to collaboration and creativity. The representative from W.B. Mason even asked us to send him the student designs. While we don’t expect him to send us a blueprint featuring a fish tank, we’re excited to see how he incorporates student ideas into his proposal.

Earlier in the week, we met with a group of teachers from Staples High School. They’re interested in starting a similar program in their school and came to discuss our philosophy and curriculum, as well as the challenges we faced in designing Innovation Lab. It’s always refreshing to talk to like-minded teachers about a topic we feel so passionate about. But as one of the teachers from Staples pointed out, cross-district collaboration is rare. From the beginning, we’ve tried to create partnerships with schools all around the country, from Massachusetts to Hawaii. It feels great to now be collaborating with a group of teachers only a few miles away.

The Humanities team spent the rest of the week polishing projects, going through each one to ensure that the English and Social Studies curriculum is intertwined in a way that engages students and supports the overarching project. In the pursuit of our American Studies experience, we’ve been looking for texts that encapsulate the history and literature of 20th century America. For our quarter on Identity, we found a great collection of early Marvel Comics. Flipping through, it’s easy to see how much popular culture mirrors politics and society. It also fits perfectly with our discussion of the hero archetype and important concepts like grit, perseverance, and the growth mindset.

We also want to emphasize the importance of writing in each of our units. In our Inspiration quarter, students learn the art of argumentation through the most controversial issues of the 1970s. In researching different books and articles on writing, I found a piece written by Andrew Solomon entitled, “The Middle of Things: Advice for Young Writers.” His advice rings true not only for the craft of writing, but creativity in general: “Never forget that the truest luxury is imagination, and that being a writer gives you the leeway to exploit all of the imagination’s curious intricacies, to be what you were, what you are, what you will be, and what everyone else is or was or will be, too.” A worthy lesson for any student, and one we hope to teach throughout the curriculum.

Humanities is also hard at work designing two semester-long Genius Hours. Each semester, time will be built into a student’s schedule to explore a topic that interests them. The Genius Hour of the second semester will give students the opportunity to write a research paper on a topic of their choice, and then, using what they learned, make an impact in their community. We can’t wait to see the work students produce.

Next week, STEM and Humanities will be doing tuning protocols on our projects. Keeping in mind voice, choice, and audience, we’ll give feedback across disciplines to guarantee our projects offer students an engaging and flexible way to learn. Just as we expect students to participate in critique and revision, we’ve setup guidelines to conduct our own workshops geared towards improvement. In thinking about the best learning environments for students, it’s safe to say we’ve picked up a few tips ourselves.

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