Teaching and Learning Environments

Let the Kids Take Care of It

Person 1: “ Colored people are…” Person 2: “Do you mean, people of color?” Person 1: “Yeah, whatever.” We’re sitting in a tight semi-circle in the middle of the room: 40 ninth graders and two teachers, for three hours of Humanities class. I’m co-teaching, as I have for more than two years, with Nadya. Today we’re talking microaggressions, and while it’s not our first time, it’s our first time focusing specifically on racial microaggressions. We started the day analyzing a variety of definitions of racism, looking for themes, and building our own definitions. Our students held this document in their laps, scribbling in the margins: racism is a system; it’s behavior; it requires power; it benefits some groups at the expense of others.

An Open Letter to our 9th Grade Students

 

Dear 9th Graders,

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break, Ms. Bech and I came into class exhausted.  We had spent the night before staying up late to hear the non-indictment announcement in Ferguson.  We knew Tuesday’s lesson was about the justice system and conversations about race in America, but we had to figure out how to incorporate this latest news. Read more.

Classrooms of the Future

 

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. Read more.

Introducing the Partner Teacher Program

The premise of the Partner Teacher program is simple: In order to shift their classroom practice, teachers need time, resources, and collaborative support.

Getting Started…

 

“What does it mean to be American?” “What is my effect on others?” “What is our relationship to nature?”

“What does it mean to be educated?”

It’s the 3rd week of the school year. We are well on our way to answering some of our guiding questions in the 11th grade English classroom. Read more.

I can’t…yet.

These days, I’m hearing the word "yet" added to all sorts of sentences. Two years ago, the whole Burlington High School faculty read Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. These first few weeks of the school year, it has been so clear that Burlington High School’s teachers are taking the growth mindset very seriously.

Go Green, Save Green: Energy Efficiency Design Challenge

This year Burlington High School physics teachers Lisa Carpenter and Richard Meyer took the risk of moving beyond lecture, labs and textbooks. They opened their classrooms to collaborate with community partners in order to make their energy efficiency units more relevant and rigorous.

At Play with DNA: The Burlington Barcoding Project

Students at Burlington High School got to play with DNA and move learning beyond the textbook for their Genetics class this year. Science teacher Molly Heath came across the Urban Barcoding Project from New York City last year, and it inspired her to look for ways to engage her students with the Burlington community in a similar manner. She applied for grants to fund the right equipment and earned grants through the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering and the Partnership for Change.

Adversity by Design

I had the chance to take a workshop on Adversity by Design with ninth grade physics teacher Scott Swaaley at the original High Tech High. Scott is a former engineer who’s been teaching at High Tech High for two years. His approach to adversity intrigued me. Embracing and seeking adversity seemed an interesting approach. The philosophy at High Tech High is that students and teachers must be taken to an uncomfortable place or they will check out and not be challenged. Students participate in semester long interdisciplinary projects. Projects by design need to be perceived as difficult in order for students to develop tangible skills. Projects should not be “dumpster” projects, meaning posters or disposable products. Projects should have a sense of permanence or sustainability that can be displayed or shared. Scott runs what he calls the GRIT Lab: Growth, Resilience, Intensity and Tenacity.