Last night, a group of thirty ChangeMaker Academy parents met to discuss education, PBL, and what to expect from this program for their children. We started broad, by discussing philosophical questions about the purpose of education, such as "What skills do students need to be successful in the 21st century?" and "What does it mean to learn?"
Then we transitioned to how The ChangeMaker Academy will fulfill our ideals. There are four main learning objectives. Students will be able to:
We are excited about how each content area, not only fits into each broad theme, but also really complements the others. My next post will give an overview of the the first unit.
Our educational vision for a new Waltham High School focuses on the need to better prepare ALL students for the demands of college, career and community. We know that universities and employers want candidates who think and engage in an interdisciplinary fashion, focus and complete high-quality projects and who demonstrate 21st century skills including complex communication, empathy, problem-solving, creative and innovate thinking, and collaboration and teamwork.
The ChangeMakers Academy is designed to deliver to our students a set of knowledge, skills, and competencies that will best prepare them for the demands of college, career, employment and community. I am so excited about the pilot of our ChangeMakers Academy because I believe it is going to ensure that our graduates are even more competitive for college and career.
I am so impressed by the work Allyson McHugh is leading to ensure ChangeMakers Academy is a success and that it scales up in the future to ensure ALL students have access to a program that we believe is good for ALL students. Equally impressive are the high-quality teachers Ms. McHugh has selected for the program. In their collaborative work together, they consistently demonstrate the 21st century skills we look to build into our students and the lucky students in the Academy will benefit from their work.
I hope that all of you can join the Design Swarm scheduled for Monday, May 14th from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. in the Waltham High School Library. I’m acutely aware that this is a busy time for all, but I think you will get a sense of the academic program from this experience and I encourage you to prioritize and participate.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Allyson McHugh or me.
Superintendent of Schools
The MESH teachers of the The Changemaker Academy and I recently participated in an online workshop offered through Harvard and The Right Question Institute, entitled "Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions: Best Practices in the Question Formulation Technique." I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn more about best practices. But don't take my word on it! Check out what Ms. Perna, the English teacher, had to say about the class and the technique:
As an English teacher I pride myself on my ability to frame questions about a text in order to foster in-depth thinking about characters, setting and theme. But, as we shift to the Project Based Learning model next year, I know it is not my questions that are the important ones. Students will be taking the reins of their own learning in new and powerful ways and part of that process will be leaning to ask the right questions. That also sounds like a daunting tasks for ninth grades (and for me!) How do I give students more power over what they are learning, while still making sure we are hitting all of the standards, aligning curriculum and fostering the reading and writing skills that will help them be successful communicators?
The Question Formulation Technique really helped to show me the possibilities. By thinking through the focus you want students to think about, offering prompts and specific guidelines you are guiding students in the right direction. It is not a free for all of anything goes. Rather I, the teacher, set up the perimeters and they, the students, start the exploration.
I’ve been using this technique with some of my tenth graders as we study Macbeth. When I used the QFT to preview Macbeth and being introducing themes of the play, I was surprised by the questions they created. It wasn’t that they were that different than the essential questions I normally propose. Rather they were somewhat similar, but because they created them and they reworked them, the students are more invested in finding the answers. Now as we continue to read and look at guilt and ambition, it is with a renewed interest because they have a stake in the answers.