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.
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.
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.
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.
Today all freshmen and sophomores have access to 1:1 technology through iPads. And it’s changing the way students and teachers learn and communicate. It’s creating more rigor, creativity, equity and accountability for teachers and students using iPads responsibly in the classroom.
Eve Berinati is no stranger to youth engagement, community based learning and flexible teaching and learning environments. She frequently empowers her students with opportunities to share their voices in flexible physical and digital spaces outside the tradition classroom walls of Burlington High School. Some of these include NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), The Young Writers Project, Theatre of the Absurd and Vermont Young Playwrights.
The traditional foreign language classroom made up of repetitive textbook exercises and oral recitation has evolved in many schools across our country. Madame Drpich is one of the most innovative foreign language teachers using technology in Vermont. She is one of a handful of teachers from the United States involved in VIA: Virtual Intercultural Avenues, a collaborative portal for virtual communication between five schools in the United States, Belgium and France. This is a virtual portal developed by an educator at Essex High School where students and teachers within the participating schools can collaborate on lesson planning, curriculum development, classroom discussions and projects via videoconferencing, email, social media, film and other online communication.
Students from Burlington High School helped plan and facilitate intergenerational conversations on race and equity in our community last week at ECHO Lake and Aquarium Center. This event was co-sponsored by the Partnership for Change, Mayor Miro Weinberger, State Representative Kesha Ram, The Young Writers Project and other community partners.
Burlington High School sophomores Forest Elliot and William Sutton and representatives from Partnership for Change joined Mayor Miro Weinberger at a press conference announcing BTV Ignite, Burlington’s partnership with US Ignite at Dealer.com today. US Ignite is a White House initiative supported by the National Science Foundation to advance applications and services for next-generation networks across America.