How to win the VT Tech Bridge Building competition

It takes a combination of flexible pathways and student passion.

student-directed learningPeoples Academy Middle Level 6th graders Noble Beerworth, Josephine Simone, Anna Isselhardt, and Jacob Fougere won big at this year’s  VT Tech’s Bridge Building competition.  They built a bridge that withstood 1,089 pounds of pressure, but the story of how their school helped them get there is equally impressive.

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Flexible pathways in proficiency-based learning

Choose Your Own Adventure

practice for proficiencyIn Sam Nelson’s classroom, students choose what they learn, and how. Through the use of learning scales and targets, Nelson sets guidelines for students to demonstrate proficiencies in whatever they choose to study. Between the two systems — flexible pathways and proficiency-based learning — students negotiate a curriculum that keeps them engaged and satisfies their curiosity about the world around them.

How does it all work? Let’s take a look.

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What are the benefits of taking Genius Hour school-wide?

It’s a movement, not a moment

taking Genius Hour school-wideEvery teacher should consider making time for Genius Hour (sometimes called 20% time or Passion Projects). We know that when students are given the opportunity to explore their own topics, they gain skills in self-direction.

But I’ve come to believe that the ideal Genius Hour involves as much of the school as possible. Here’s what it could look like.

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The student-centered art classroom

Structures to support student artists

student-directed learning at The Dorset SchoolArt is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”. To teach children that expression or application sounds like a lofty endeavor. But that is exactly what art teachers do in our schools every day.

If art is the expression of creativity and imagination, then we need new models. Because art is about voice and originality. There is no right and wrong way to express your vision and creation.

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