[thx again to Anne McGrath/all of http://www.RhinebeckYouth.org for showing "Race to Nowhere" film Friday!]
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To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
From: Joel Tyner
Subject: Mr. Phelan/Dr. Davenport-- chance for Independent Project at Rhinebek High School?...
Hi Superintendent Phelan, Principal Davenport!...
Kudos to you both (and the Community Coalition for Rhinebeck Youth http://www.RhinebeckYouth.org )-- for showing that great http://www.RacetoNowhere.com documentary Friday night at the high school...
Dr. Davenport-- I spoke to you briefly at the end of the film about an op-ed I read last year in the Times about an incredibly successful trial program in a Massachusetts high school-- the Independent Project-- about "a group of eight public high school students, aged 15 to 17, in western Massachusetts as they designed and ran their own school within a school; hey represented the usual range: two were close to dropping out before they started the project, while others were honors students. They named their school the Independent Project...the results of their experiment have been transformative. An Independence Project student who had once considered dropping out of school found he couldn't bear to stop focusing on his current history question but didn't want to miss out on exploring a new one..."
[see just below-- "Let Kids Rule the School" by Susan Engel from last Mar. 14th:
See video here for much more on this-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTmH1wS2NJY ...
Check out this from John Tesh' website-- "The 'Independent Project' Inspires Kids to Stay in School":
And this one-- "Why The Independent Project Inspires Us at PEPY" by Jen Enrique and Daniela Papi
So-- is there a chance that something like the Independent Project could be tried with students here?...
Just thought I'd ask!...(at least perhaps a small demonstration project at Rhinebeck High, maybe?)...
1981 Rhinebeck High School graduate
Rhinebeck/Clinton County Legislator since 2004
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
p.s. Also check out http://www.RethinkingSchools.org -- much food for thought there too; great ideas...
[aside from my political activism over the last few decades, I've also worked with students in public and private schools for twenty-five years now-- as a math teacher in the Bronx for five years, as a music teacher in Poughkeepsie for a year-- literally all over...from Hudson to Arlington to Millbrook to New Paltz to Kingston to Wappingers to Beacon (even in Rhinebeck)-- so education is a passion for me too]
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From http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/opinion/15engel.html ...
Let Kids Rule the School
By SUSAN ENGEL
Published: March 14, 2011
New Marlborough, Mass.
IN a speech last week, President Obama said it was unacceptable that "as many as a quarter of American students are not finishing high school." But our current educational approach doesn't just fail to prepare teenagers for graduation or for college academics; it fails to prepare them, in a profound way, for adult life.
We want young people to become independent and capable, yet we structure their days to the minute and give them few opportunities to do anything but answer multiple-choice questions, follow instructions and memorize information. We cast social interaction as an impediment to learning, yet all evidence points to the huge role it plays in their psychological development.
That's why we need to rethink the very nature of high school itself.
I recently followed a group of eight public high school students, aged 15 to 17, in western Massachusetts as they designed and ran their own school within a school. They represented the usual range: two were close to dropping out before they started the project, while others were honors students. They named their school the Independent Project.
Their guidance counselor was their adviser, consulting with them when the group flagged in energy or encountered an obstacle. Though they sought advice from English, math and science teachers, they were responsible for monitoring one another's work and giving one another feedback. There were no grades, but at the end of the semester, the students wrote evaluations of their classmates.
The students also designed their own curriculum, deciding to split their September-to-January term into two halves.
During the first half, they formulated and then answered questions about the natural and social world, including "Are the plant cells at the bottom of a nearby mountain different than those at the top of the mountain?" and "Why we do we cry?" They not only critiqued one another's queries, but also the answers they came up with. Along the way, they acquired essential tools of inquiry, like how to devise good methods for gathering various kinds of data.
During the second half, the group practiced what they called "the literary and mathematical arts." They chose eight novels - including works by Kurt Vonnegut, William Faulkner and Oscar Wilde - to read in eight weeks. That is more than the school's A.P. English class reads in an entire year.
Meanwhile, each of them focused on specific mathematical topics, from quadratic equations to the numbers behind poker. They sought the help of full-time math teachers, consulted books and online sources and, whenever possible, taught one another.
They also each undertook an "individual endeavor," learning to play the piano or to cook, writing a novel or making a podcast about domestic violence. At the end of the term, they performed these new skills in front of the entire student body and faculty.
Finally, they embarked on a collective endeavor, which they agreed had to have social significance. Because they felt the whole experience had been so life-changing, they ended up making a film showing how other students could start and run their own schools.
The results of their experiment have been transformative. An Independence Project student who had once considered dropping out of school found he couldn't bear to stop focusing on his current history question but didn't want to miss out on exploring a new one. When he asked the group if it would be O.K. to pursue both, another student answered, "Yeah, I think that's what they call learning."
One student who had failed all of his previous math courses spent three weeks teaching the others about probability. Another said: "I did well before. But I had forgotten what I actually like doing." They have all returned to the conventional curriculum and are doing well. Two of the seniors are applying to highly selective liberal arts colleges.
The students in the Independent Project are remarkable but not because they are exceptionally motivated or unusually talented. They are remarkable because they demonstrate the kinds of learning and personal growth that are possible when teenagers feel ownership of their high school experience, when they learn things that matter to them and when they learn together. In such a setting, school capitalizes on rather than thwarts the intensity and engagement that teenagers usually reserve for sports, protest or friendship.
Schools everywhere could initiate an Independent Project. All it takes are serious, committed students and a supportive faculty. These projects might not be exactly alike: students might apportion their time differently, or add another discipline to the mix. But if the Independent Project students are any indication, participants will end up more accomplished, more engaged and more knowledgeable than they would have been taking regular courses.
We have tried making the school day longer and blanketing students with standardized tests. But perhaps children don't need another reform imposed on them. Instead, they need to be the authors of their own education.
Susan Engel is the author of "Red Flags or Red Herrings: Predicting Who Your Child Will Become."
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From http://www.Tesh.com/topics.html?cc_id=8&dc_id=20428 ...
The "Independent Project" Inspires Kids to Stay in School
It's time to rethink high school! That's the takeaway from a new experiment we heard about, called the "Independent Project." Last fall, a high school in Massachusetts chose eight students to basically design and run their own school-within-a-school. Some were honors students, while others were on the verge of dropping out. The students were free to get advice from teachers and their guidance counselor, but they were mostly responsible for monitoring their own work, and giving each other feedback.
Sounds like an invitation to slack off, right? Check out what happened: In the first half of the semester, the students decided to study science and history. In the second half, they focused on math and literature. At the same time, each student learned something on their own - like cooking, playing the piano, or making a podcast. Finally, they all created a film, where they talked about their experiences, and the lessons they learned. By the end of the experiment, two students who had considered dropping out said they were eager to stay in school! Another student who had been failing math, volunteered to help teach it.
So why the turnaround? Susan Engel directs a teaching program at Williams College in Massachusetts. She says the most remarkable thing about the Independent Project is that it shows what can happen when teenagers take "ownership" of their education. In other words: When you take away all the standardized tests, multiple-choice questions, and precise lesson plans, this experiment shows that teens want to learn. They just want to learn things that matter to them, on their own terms. Engel says that's important when you consider a quarter of North American students don't finish high school! As she puts it: The current education system is broken and the Independent Project may offer some clues to help fix it.
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From http://Journal.Pepyride.org ...
Why The Independent Project Inspires Us at PEPY
Child to Child
By Jen Enrique and Daniela Papi
We are so inspired by the article about The Independent Project in the New York Times last week.
In Massachusetts, a group of 8 high school students, ranging from 15 to 17 years of age, successfully designed and operated their own school within a school, calling it The Independent Project. The students who embarked on this project came from a range of academic backgrounds, from students close to dropping out of school to honors students preparing for college. The results of this year-long project have been impressive: Not only did every student remain in school, but the participants also rediscovered a spark of excitement for learning that had been laying dormant for years.
The Independent Project resonated with us for a number of reasons.
One, it showed that student-driven projects, in which participants who are given more control of the strategies and goals of the program, can be successful. Two, the structure of the independent study program is very similar to a number of PEPY's own pilot programs in terms of formats and goals. Three, it reinforces many of PEPY's core beliefs - that investing time in people is the most effective way to create long-lasting impact, and that sharing the lessons we are learning is the best way to continually improve our work.
Our Child-to-Child model is very similar to The Independent Project. Over 280 children (ages 8 to 16) work together to identify issues they encounter on a regular basis, conduct independent research, and then plan a course of action to work for change within their own communities.
Like The Independent Project, the children decide what they want to study and then teach it to their peers. Topics researched in the past have included malaria and inaccessibility of clean drinking water. After asking questions and discussing the topic in groups, students create dramas, brochures, songs, or other activities to teach others in their community about what they have learned.
Last June, another amazing group of children from Chanleas Dai started their own educational organization, Volunteer Community Development (VCD). They were inspired by their experiences in PEPY's Child-to-Child program and by the teachers in our Creative Learning Classes & English programs, as well as by their own desire to help each other and their communities.
What started with 17 junior high school kids has now grown into 54 young educators (in grades 7-12) who collectively teach more than 700 kids, 5 nights per week, in more than 20 different locations in the district! They have implemented a management structure that involves sending a rotating group of teachers to ensure that the quality of the classes is consistent in each location.
In addition, the commune Chief has shown his support for the program by dedicating a small building for students to hold planning and strategy meetings. It all happened because of the phenomenon highlighted in the NY Times: Students who are given more freedom to design their own learning experiences and create their own future are more engaged in continuing their education and sharing their self-acquired knowledge.