Our school has a modified block schedule, with four 70 minutes classes per day. Most classes meet every day, although there are a few that meet every other day. We run for two quarters (about 18 weeks), then all classes change and we go another two quarters. This means that summer planning tends to focus on first semester classes and second semester classes get short shrift (is that really a word?).
This coming week, I will be joining a bunch of people to plan our Pathways classes. What’s that? Well, we are starting these focused course options in the hopes that we will better engage our students and our community. The classes are project based, bring in community partners, are standards based and proficiency graded. Classes are cross curricular, so that students can get two credits in core academic areas. And students are not locked in; they will have the flexibility to move into or out of a pathway. We started last year with Marine Studies Pathway to meet the needs of a community that is surrounded by ocean (yes, I live on island, but there is a bridge). Kids in Marine Studies can elect to take the Skipper’s Program and earn industry certifications. To introduce kids to the idea of a pathway, we also offered an Intro to Pathways. Now we are adding an Arts Pathway, and we hope to offer a Healthcare Pathway in 2015-16.
Last year’s pilot was a little rough around the edges, since neither students nor teachers really knew how to do education this way. So this year, we are requiring all students to take Pathways 101 before they can enroll in a pathways class. Pathways 101 doesn’t have any required academic content, but it is designed to teach students how to learn in a project based class, how to collaborate, set goals, work with community members, and generally take responsibility for their own learning. This will be a fall semester course. We are also offering Marine Studies in the fall that offers language arts and biology credit and in the spring that offers physical science and math credit. The Arts Pathway will be offering History through the Arts in the Spring.
Tomorrow, we start planning all the classes, including those that don’t start until the end of January. It should be an interesting week.