DESIGN AN OPEN-SYSTEM SCHOOL that takes its elements from the readings, videos and powerpoint slides, and from the schools we have learned about from our Web Research presentations. The idea is to turn abstract theory into concrete forms of life. Organize your paper/powerpoint according to the same categories we have been using so far:
SCHOOL AS AN OPEN SYSTEM:
1. SPACE: various sized rooms, pathways, multiple commons, indoor-outdoor interfaces, natural light
2. TIME: segmentation, flow, spontaneity, flexibility
3. GROUPING: large & small, individual, fluid
4. CURRICULUM & MATERIALS: project-based, multidisciplinary, emergent, polysymbolic, individualized, customized
5. PEDAGOGY: dialogical, interactive, customized, mentorship
6. ASSESSMENT: Descriptive Review, multi-modal, formative
7. GOVERNANCE: non-hierarchical, agentic, direct democracy
8. PARENTS & COMMUNITY: community as resource and object of study; parents as visiting teachers.
• No more than 100 students and least 10 full-time teachers (1:10 ratio)
• Ages 6-14, NOT age-graded (no traditional classrooms)
• Home-base organization, each with resident mentor
• Individualized schedules (IEP)
• Emphasis on arts: music, dance, plastic arts, video, literature, theatre, crafts. Artist-in-Residence on staff
• Negotiated, emergent, individualized and integrated (inter-disciplinary) curriculum BASED ON THE PROJECT METHOD. Individualized math curriculum. Required “basic” classes in science, history, geography, anthropology and literature (non-graded).
• Assessment based on the Descriptive Review Process, plus portfolios, performances, exhibits and presentations, and conferences with mentors and with parents and mentors. No letter or number grades
• Governance based on democratic schools model: whole-school governance
• Co-op status (parents commit two hours a week to the school)
• Students participate in food growing, cooking and serving, and in building maintenance
TWO ESSENTIAL DIMENSIONS: HOME BASES & IEP’S:
1. No age-grade classrooms. Instead, groups will be organized in home bases, which are spread around the school in various places. Each home base will house 10-15 students, of varying ages. A teacher/mentor’s office will be part of each home base. It will also include comfortable chairs, a seminar table, individual study carrels for each student, and a snack bar, as well as French doors to the outside and play-ground..
2. Each student will, with their mentor, develop and maintain an individual weekly or monthly plan, or IEP. When they come to school in the morning, they will go to their home base, consult briefly on their IEP with their mentor, and go off to the scheduled activities—meeting with other students (from different home bases) on a project they have signed up for (for example), “Ocean Pollution and How to Fix It”), practicing a play they are working on with another group, going to the language lab, attending a seminar on a certain book or film, serving on the Judicial Committee, harvesting food from the greenhouse, a yoga class, engaging in peer tutoring in math, working on a programmed math module in their study carrel (or somewhere else) or attending a special class for help with a math module; attending the Weekly Meeting, preparing food in the kitchen, just hanging out for an hour,etc. etc. Individual students and small groups will come and go from their home base for these activities.
SPACE: The school will include a large greenhouse for growing food that connects directly with the main building, a black box theatre, study rooms, library, labs, and studios for art, music, and dance. Pathways will be irregular (i.e not like a prison or factory or office building—more like a hive or a labyrinth). Lots of indoor-outdoor interfaces (a terrace outside each home base, for example), and there will be many both large and small commons, as well as many spaces around the school for sitting and communicating (window niches, an outdoor section to the cafeteria, etc.). Pay special attention to a) the relationship between your building’s inside and outside, AND b) to the way that the spatial configuration of corridors and other interior spaces contribute to how people move through a building and whether they meet or remain apart. c) Create multiple and diverse work and meeting spaces, and be sure to include at least several commons, one very large one and several small ones; d) Create fixed spaces for display of student work all thorough the building; and e) pay attention to the “entry transition”—that is, the transition from street into the building: consider gateways, shifts in in pathway direction, level, surface, light, and view. Think in terms of a variety of gathering spaces—for whole school assembly, large groups, small groups, seminar rooms, consultation rooms, kitchen and multiple dining rooms, café, art studio, shop, recording studio, greenhouses, terraces, adventure playground and black box theatre.
TIME: No segmented “periods.” Varying lengths of classes and meetings. Each student has their own customized schedule (IEP). Free time periods throughout the day.
No graded classrooms. Instead, groups will be organized in home bases, which are spread around the school in various places. Each home base will house 10-15 students, of varying ages. A teacher/mentor’s office will be part of each home base. It will also include comfortable chairs, a seminar table, individual study carrels for each student, and a snack bar, as well as French doors to the outside and play-ground. Home Bases are places to relax, plan, study, meet in small groups, meet with one’s mentor, etc.
CURRICULUM & MATERIALS:
• Project and/or theme (e.g. “central subject”) based
• Emergent: Negotiated between students and teachers
• Integrated (inter-disciplinary)
• Customized for each individual student, and partially self-paced
• Emphasis on Arts: Music, Dance, Plastic Arts, Video, Literature, Theatre, Crafts
Each student will, with their mentor, develop and maintain an individual weekly or monthly plan, or IEP. When they come to school in the morning, they will go to their home base, consult briefly on their IEP with their mentor, and go off to the scheduled activities—meeting with other students (from different home bases) on a project they have signed up for (for example), “Ocean Pollution and How to Fix It”), practicing a play they are working on with another group, going to the language lab, attending a seminar on a certain book or film, serving on the Judicial Committee, harvesting food from the greenhouse, a yoga class, engaging in peer tutoring in math, working on a programmed math module in their study carrel (or somewhere else) or attending a special class for help with a math module; attending the Weekly Meeting, preparing food in the kitchen, just hanging out for an hour, etc. etc. Students will come and go from their home base for these activities. Explain how projects are developed and organized, etc and INCLUDE A DETAILED “DAY IN THE LIFE” OF ONE STUDENT IN THE SCHOOL.
Four Categories Of Curriculum
1) PROJECTS. Students sign up for one project chosen from among a group of possible ones that are decided on collaboratively by themselves and teachers. Both teachers and students present their ideas to the whole school at the beginning of the term. Sign-up sheets are then posted on a bulletin board, and students put their names on the one they are interested in. There might be a cap for the number of people who can sign up for one—maybe 10—but a project can also be carried out by one person, or a pair.
Then the teacher designs activities that are based in the different content areas and divides them among the students to perform. In other words, you want to teach the content areas (math, history, science, literature, anthropology, geography) in the context of the project under study. For example, if the project were “Music of the American Indians,” various groups or subgroups of the 15 students would listen to recordings, learn songs, (music), identify songs of different tribes and different styles (geography), learn about the PowWow (anthropology), study the history of one tribe and their music (history) study the rhythms and intervals of Indian music (math/music), make a drum and a rattle themselves (craft), read a book about Indian life (e.g. “I Buried My Heart at Wounded Knee) (literature), and so on. They would culminate the project with a musical performance, a poster display, or a display of the instruments they have made.
Other possible projects are: the world migration crisis; nuclear weapons; income inequality (lots of math here); climate change; racism in America; a popular or classic book (e.g. Harry Potter, Robinson Crusoe); the history of some old building in town (e.g. the post office or the library); wild animals in the city (coyotes, raccoons, ground hogs); migrating birds; the life of trees; the game of baseball; the Aztecs or Maya civilizations; famous explorers; a famous painter and his/her time, the history of baseball . . . Graded as pass/fail.
2) INDIVIDUALIZED UNITS IN MATH AND LANGUAGE. In addition, the curriculum should include individualized programmatic instruction in mathematics and a foreign language, done as a combination of self-paced lessons (like the School of One) that can be done on a computer or as work-sheets, combined with trouble-shooting and tutoring classes as needed. Students advance through unit mastery tests.
3) BASIC CONTENT COURSES. Include a required set of four “basic” content courses that meet once a week, and may coordinate with the projects that are going on. These are decided on each year by the teachers as a group, and could include: The Age of the Dinosaurs, World History, Ancient Egypt (or some other ancient civilization), American History, Philosophy (discussion-based), Language Arts (novel and poetry and song), Plants and Animals, Music Appreciation, Art Appreciation, Geography and Culture, one other language (Spanish, Latin, Italian, French, Chinese). Graded as pass/fail.
4) ELECTIVES. Students choose one from among a series of electives that includes, for example, Martial Arts, Tai Chi, Yoga, Choral Singing, Orchestra, Woodworking, Intramural Sports, Painting and/or Sculpture, Rock Band, Peer Tutoring, Ornithology (birding), and Poetry, Short Story or Novel Writing. These classes meet once or twice a week, and are offered according to teachers’, parents’ and community members’ available expertise. Graded as pass/fail.
• Project design and facilitation
• Small and large group instruction
• Lecture, lab, seminar formats
• Peer tutoring
• Individual tutoring
• Asynchronous instruction
• Independent study
• Abundant documentation: continuously changing wall displays, production of self-made books, exhibits and performances
ASSESSMENT: Based on the Descriptive Review Process. Also portfolios, individual interviews with students, small group self evaluation, formative mastery tests for moving on in specific areas, like math, etc., performances, exhibits and presentations, and regular conferences with mentors and with parents and mentors.
GOVERNANCE: Direct democratic whole-school governance. Include a description of the governing structure, including Weekly Meeting, Judicial Committee, and other committees (grounds committee, library committee, etc). Describe schedule and responsibilities (e.g. rotation of students in serving on JC) in detail.
PARENTS AND COMMUNITY: Parents committo contributing two hours a week, whether teaching–e.g. music, art, gardening, cooking, shop, bicycle maintenance, another language, etc. or serving as classroom aides, or using their accounting skills, etc.. Some projects are community-based—e.g. historical projects studying the town or region, following political campaigns, investigating town water and sanitation systems, local environmental studies, etc.. Parents and community are invited frequently to performances, exhibits, celebrations, etc. Parents have option of attending Weekly Meetings.