So there’s this other crazy teacher (MA) at my school and together we took a leap into the unknown this week. With little planning time, uncertain supplies, and a crazy schedule we did something unthinkable. We offered 25 students the chance to free up their Fall second period by taking a week long, intensive version of the class. We were surprised by the overwhelming response: 18 students showed up Monday morning, two weeks before regular school starts. I’ll say it again: 18 students were willing to give up a week of the last part of their summer. Whew! We were amazed.
What is this class they were so willing to jump into? We called it Summer Pathways 101 to distinguish it from regular school year Pathways 101. The content of the course is all about process. We have two standards: Students will be collaborative and quality workers and Students will be self-directed and life-long learners. How hard could that be to teach, right? No math standards, no writing standards; seems like that should be a breeze!
Think about a conference you may have attended that lasted three or four days all day long. Think about how intense that was and how you were both wiped out and energized at the end (if it was a good conference). Now multiply that by 17 students who are also both energized and wiped out. By the third day of five.
We started the first day by jumping right into a group challenge. We split them into four groups, gave them each 2 sheets of 4×8 cardboard, 50 yards of colored duct tape, a utility knife, a meter stick, and markers. With these materials they had to build an object that would float long enough for one team member to navigate a straight course. We loaded kids and materials into a bus and traveled to a local beach where they designed and built cardboard boats.
Did I mention that about half of the kids were interested in the Arts Pathway and about half of them were interested in the Marine Studies Pathway? And that these two groups were pretty distinct within our school? And that about half were freshman? The real challenge for them was how to work with people they would not normally be grouped with. It was great fun to see them get frustrated and then work through it.
We only had three goals and it was so hard to achieve them. We wanted students to complete a group project, an individual project, and a draft personalized learning plan. We were asking them to learn how to work in groups to solve problems, to work individually to plan and execute a project with limited resources and time constraints, and to understand this new-fangled personalized learning plan.