What a summer it was for our EPIC team as they prepared to do something different for the learners at Freedom Elementary. It all started last fall 2015 when our district learned that we would be receiving a grant to help support an elementary personalized learning model. In January four learning facilitators, our district curriculum director, building principal and I traveled to Maine to tour several schools. We had a vision of what we wanted this program to look like, but we needed to see it in action at an elementary level. We had all made several visits to Pioneer Ridge Middle School in Chaska, MN to see the work they are doing at the middle school level. Those visits helped us start to create a framework that we could use at the elementary level.
When we got to Maine, we saw several schools doing incredible things, but the one school that matched our vision was Cornville Elementary. They have done away with grade levels and empower their learners to drive their learning. The learners based on what they need attend different classrooms to get the support. We were able to spend the entire day talking with their learning facilitators and learning about their structure and setup. We left Maine excited, knowing that our vision could become a reality. The following pieces had to get started right away once we got home:
1.) We needed to get a parent meeting lined up to share what we were about to do next year at this elementary school.
2.) We needed a plan on how learners would be selected for this program.
3.) Start planning PD for the learning facilitators.
Our parent meetings went well, and we ended up having 150 learners that wanted to be in this new program. Since this is our first year we could only take 94 learners, as this model will be a school-inside-a -school. That then lead us down the path of selecting learners for the program. We sent out a survey to the teachers in the building asking for feedback about the learners interested in the program. We then took that data and started to create our four different studios. We selected the learners by a random generator so that there could not be any hard feelings on who got in and who did not. We hope to add more learning facilitators in future years so that all interested learners can be a part of the program.
“If you’re going to be Learner-Centered, a lesson shouldn’t be How can that be taught? it should be how is that best learned?”-@chuckschwahn
The summer has been busy for our learning facilitators. We have had ten days of training together to start to build this program from the ground up. We first started with creating the learning environments.
We then moved into looking at the four different age level standards. We began with math as that was easy to align to the four studios. We then moved into reading and writing. The focus of our program is to empower our learners, help them discover their passions, and support them through their learning journey. We will still have large group teaching happening, but that is only to kick off a learning focus rather than every day. Our learning facilitators will still meet with learners in small groups, but it will be based on what they need. Our school will be using the NWEA Map assessment. This tool will allow us to support all learners to help them grow. Some learners in 3rd grade are ready for 4th or 5th-grade reading standards but are not quite ready for math in those areas. We can move that learner to a different studio for reading and have them come back to a studio that is at their math level.
The last few professional development days have been focused on creating the first ten days of school for our learners. We have spent time intentionally planning how we want to do this because it is all about helping our learners have a growth mindset.
Stay tuned for more updates on our new program. If you are interested in bringing a team to see this in action, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and we can look at setting up a time for a visit. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org