The growing trend of increasing student voice and choice in schools is opening authentic opportunities for dialogues between students and adults. Students, when given the opportunity to present to educators and administrators, almost always deliver on a level far beyond what many think middle schoolers are capable of.
And that’s exactly what’s been happening at Colchester Middle School.
The power of the student consult
If you’re wondering what engages, excites and motivates students, the answer is easy: ask them.
Creating opportunities for students to give feedback on plans, projects, assessments and activities builds a collaborative learning community, and creates leadership and student voice opportunities.
Here’s how one school gave student consultants a shot.
Hope launches in the Northeast Kingdom
As part of participating in the UN’s Global Goals, students at Burke Town School, in West Burke VT, kicked off their service learning projects by inviting their community’s leaders to come to the school and ask for what they needed. What would make West Burke a better place to live? And how could these students help?
Introducing “Project Hope”.
Get organized, then get tech
Many of your current — or future — collaborators teach at other schools around the state or world. But when you’ve got a great idea for collaboration, don’t let distance stand in your way. Let’s look at this example from three Vermont schools on how to plan, manage and support one unit run across three different schools.
(Hint: tech helps. A lot.)
Does your community know you as a learner?
Flood Brook School buzzed with excitement. Students brought in their projects on tables or on carts, the weight sometimes shared with friends. As they set up their displays, parents, teachers, younger students and community members milled about, waiting for the opportunity to learn more about student projects and process. One student fired his trebuchet in the center of the room to great fanfare.
And over the course of the hour, these students described their learning to an eager and curious community. Continue reading
Place-based learning with real world implications
For your students, learning about the local landscape can be amazing. What’s that tree? How long has that building been here? What does that plaque, “1927 Flood Level” mean?
Here’s 3 tech-rich ways to study local history: by updating your town on Google Maps, creating a QR code-powered history walk or shooting a historical documentary. Roll tape!
A tale of research-driven change
Last year two educators at Crossett Brook Middle School undertook an amazing action research project that directly improved their interactions with students.
Mollie Burke-Bendzunas, speech pathologist, and Melanie Zima, special educator, took a three-day class together during the summer. The class focused on structured teaching as a strategy for working with highly autistic students. Mollie and Melanie thought that it could be applied more broadly to address a wide range of student needs.
Parenting students in a world without grades
Proficiency reporting is a set of legal requirements that all Vermont high schools must meet before 2020. In essence, we’ll report only on what a student knows and can DO, with no ultimate judgement about how well they can do it. A? B-? C+? Out the window.
Here’s a primer on four of the biggest concepts around proficiency.
Looking at tech tools for formative assessment
In a proficiency-based learning environment, frequent, flexible, and transparent assessments become cornerstones of the practice. The importance of formative assessment can’t be understated, and these tech tools make it so much easier.
It takes a village to talk about substance abuse with students
Londonderry, VT-based non-profit The Collaborative is in its 14th year of “Refuse to Use”, a substance abuse-prevention program that creates community conversations about alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
They base their curriculum off hyper-regional data and depend on community members — parents, educators and students — telling them what to talk about next.
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