Education Update: 6/04/15


Beyond Recess: How to Explore the Forest as a Kindergarten Class

While focus on academics and test scores increases in American schools, one kindergarten teacher, Eliza Minnucci of Ottauguechee School in Vermont, takes one day a week to focus on outdoor play and learning by taking her class to the woods. Inspired by a documentary about a forest school in Switzerland, Minnucci’s students are given specific tasks to perform that enhance “non-cognitive” skills as well as having play time in the woods. “The goal is to let kids experience independence and help them learn the self-regulation skills that are so important to becoming a successful adult.”

Franklin High Students Hammer Home Gift for Nickelsville’s Homeless

Working with Seattle-based organization, Sawhorse Revolution, high school students are building a shelter for the homeless. Funded by a grant from the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and supplemented by crowd-funding, 26 high school students work with local architects and volunteers to build an easily re-locatable sleeping structure. The “Nest” shelter is one of many that Sawhorse Revolution has built for Nickelsville (a Seattle housing community for homeless adults). Through this program, high school students build confidence as they learn construction skills and techniques while working to solve real-world problems.

Rhode Island’s Experiment with Blended Learning

As an attempt to tailor instruction to each student’s needs and skill level, the school district of West Warwick, RI was an early adopter of “blending learning”, a method combining teacher-led instruction with self-paced online learning. The pilot program, now over a year old, used grants from the Department of Education to purchase several hundred Google Chromebooks. Among other things, teachers in the program use the Chromebooks to evaluate students’ abilities in order to tailor instruction and assignments to individual needs. In addressing concerns from critics who point to little evidence that blended learning is more effective than traditional learning, Mary Walsh, from the Rhode Island Department of Education agrees that “it isn’t about the device.”  It’s about being thoughtful in the integration of technology and “It’s about changing the way teachers teach and students learn,” she said.

Education Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

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