Giving Compass’ Take:
• At School21 students follow a Project Based Learning curriculum that evolves through their schooling so that students receive age-appropriate material that prepares them for the next stage.
• How does this model work for students that do not stay at the school for K-12? How can other schools replicate the success of School21?
• Learn about the framework for High Quality Project Based Learning.
Anna Kyrk, head of the school’s curriculum development and Project Based Learning, leads School21’s Project Based Learning efforts. She notes that, naturally, this looks different depending upon the students’ grade levels.
At the primary level (ages four to nine), students work on projects most afternoons of the week, after a morning storytelling and literacy session and math lesson. Often, the focus of the literacy sessions mirrors their current project, so the first and last sessions in the day can both involve building on learning critical to the project.
In the middle school (ages 10 to 13), projects involve mixed-age teams coming together, off timetable for a whole day, once a week. Currently, two projects run simultaneously: one with a STEM focus, the other with an Art/History focus. After approximately 6-8 weeks, the length of our half-terms, the groups swap so that all children complete all projects.
In the secondary school (ages 14 to 18), projects are multidisciplinary and are formed either within a single department or via collaboration between two departments. The former might take place in a biological class, where students create a public service announcement about bacterial resistance. The latter approach could involve music and science, for example, or history and drama. Each term, the mix of subjects changes—and projects also may take place in foundation subjects like math and English. What’s more, students take part in the Real World Learning Program when they get to Year 10, where the school’s partnership team places students in actual work environments. In these scenarios, students solve real-life problems relevant to their ‘employer’.
School21 is far from a typical K-12 school, and students’ experiences reflect more real-world interactions than would ever be seen in traditional pedagogical models. From an interpersonal perspective, it is a small learning community where everyone knows one another. From an operational perspective, it is a place where students help design their own learning spaces.