Friday, February 3, 2017

Model Design Teams
Week 3 Update

The three Model Design Teams reconvened in Bethel on February 2nd and began with a large group re-cap of our work thus far. Amelia Lincoln, the Student Assistance Professional in Bethel and Rochester, shared information about developmental assets. According to the Search Institute, which works to improve the lives of children, developmental assets are “40 research-based, positive experiences and qualities that influence young people’s development, helping them become caring, responsible, and productive adults” ( Amelia encouraged the design teams to consider developmental assets in our planning and posed the questions, “how do we make happier, healthier kids?” and, “how do we help everyone feel welcome and connected at school?”

Each Team worked separately for the bulk of our meeting time then shared highlights of their work with the larger group. The High School Design Team focused on issues related to schedules and created a list of scheduling “must haves.” Their priorities include: time for students to take 8 courses, opportunities for extra support, teacher collaboration and planning time, enough time to complete AP curricula, and small class sizes. Noting that they are aiming for a balance between structure and flexibility, the Team also wants to ensure time for band and music, personal learning plans, community projects, extra-curriculars during the day, student-directed projects, and longer lunches.

The Experiential Team shared a vision for their program serving almost like a semester abroad for high school students. They see the Rochester-based program offering applied learning, allowing students to develop and explore “driving questions” and gain proficiencies while faculty members act as guides and mentors. The group also discussed a weeklong middle school program and believes it would be ideal to make time at the experiential program a requirement for high school students. Members from this team will be on site visits next week and plan to re-join the other Teams on February 16th.

Middle School Design Team members spent the evening in a wide-ranging discussion with John Downs from the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at UVM. The Institute partners with middle schools throughout Vermont, helping them move forward and emphasizing fundamental middle school practices, technology, and professional development. John shared different options for teams that could involve teachers “looping” with students for three years or could cluster students in multi-age groups. The Design Team expressed interest in preserving some grade-level time as well as opportunities for students of different ages to interact. A similar blended approach was considered for scheduling classes--group members feel that dedicated time in each core subject is important but the schedule should also allow for interdisciplinary projects on a regular basis. Students serving on the Middle School Design Team emphasized their desire for more hands-on learning as well as increased social opportunities. Members of the group will continue to meet each Thursday and hope to visit several middle schools during the next two weeks.

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