The Winooski jiLab: Classrooms of the Future
This academic year the Winooski School District, in correlation with the Partnership for Change is dedicated to creating an atmosphere of student-centered learning, innovation and technological integration within the school day. Team Journey (encompassing approximately half of the middle school student body) is underway with a unique focus to change the way learning happens. Afternoons are no longer dedicated to the same traditional style classroom structures: lecture format and teacher-designed curriculum have been replaced with student inquiry and personalized content. Students are deciding where their interests lie and seeking answers to complex problems that connect to their own personal passions.
Using similar, reputable techniques from the Winooski iLab, Team Journey is dedicating seventy minutes a day to this progressive learning style, conveniently named jiLab. The first project of this year asked students to design their own classroom of the future. Harking on ideas from Project Based Learning, or PBL, which emphasizes a hands-on approach to learning, students were encouraged to design their optimal learning environment. All students were asked to plan a “visionary blueprint” before commencing on their actual future classroom model. The majority of students choose to build models using supplies from around the school, with an additional influx of supplies from Creative Habitat. However, some students choose to modify the assignment: writing narratives from the perspective of classroom objects or even describing in grave detail how their classroom would be set up. Others went the technological route, generating versions using advanced software like Minecraft. Following the completion of this project, Team Journey held a gallery walk; allowing all students to view and comment on each others work. Many were impressed and even borrowed ideas to improve their own work.
Team Journey is excited and optimistic about the opportunity to remodel the current educational system. We understand that while the jiLab is only a pilot program, it’s a step in the direction of personalization and individualized education. Provided the time, space and encouragement from the Partner-Teacher Program (P4C), Team Journey hopes to facilitate the spreading of iLab ideas and values to mainstream classrooms. This is an exciting time to be part of such a progressive movement. Students, teachers and community members will reap the benefits of a more engaged student body. Skills developed in Project Based Learning environments allow students to think critically, solve problems, work in team and make presentations. These skills will help students succeed in the future, both in school and in today’s work world.