As we look to the core values and practices of Future School, a few key components of the school day stick out.
- An advisory program
- Partnerships with a network of community mentors.
- Project based learning
Anyone who has spent any time in education will recognize these three components. In fact the local paper just wrote an article highlighting the advisory programs of various schools in Northwest Arkansas. There’s also been a lot of publicity lately about private/public partnerships between schools and regional industry leaders. And don’t get me started on PBL. It’s so well known that it has it’s own TLA (Three Letter Acronym).
So what sets Future School apart? How do we differ from others if all we’re doing is following a lot of “best practices” in current educational theory? While I think each of our programs is unique in implementation, one fundamental difference exists. They are part of our foundation. Many of these programs at traditional schools have been tacked onto preexisting programs and are part of a string of mandates and chasing the educational pendulum that has left many teachers exhausted and cynical about the adoption of new programs. What sets us apart is that we’re founded on these principles and programs. They infuse our core values. When teachers come on board with us, they know what they’re getting. They know what we believe and how we do business, because we’re completely upfront about it. If they want to be a part of our team, then they know what that means. So here is what these programs look like for us:
Advisory: This is a true advisory program based on the idea that a student will share an advisor with 14 other students of Future School. They will have 90 minutes each day to work with this group. The advisor is responsible for bringing the family of the student into the community. They’re also the person who the student will propose her internship to. The advisor also helps the student to create a personalized learning plan, listing goals growth measures, and project implementations for the academic year and beyond.
Community Partnerships: as I visualize a school, I continue to run a scene through my head of a classroom full of kids in a red brick school house and see those bricks slowly melting down into the ground, leaving a group of kids surrounded by a community. The kids are free to get up from their desks and wander out into the community. Members of the community are equally free to enter into the “classroom.” As kids wander, they are inspired by what they see and bring it back into the school where their teacher helps them to clarify their thinking, target new areas of study, and plan the next steps of their journey before they set out again. While we’re certainly going to have walls and a “school,” I think the visual serves to communicate how we see our students interacting with the community of Fort Smith.
Project Based Learning: the main idea behind our projects is that they’re intended to be authentic and meaningful. Playing off the community partnerships, we want our projects to be based on real world problems that have true impact on the students. The products from their projects should be tangible and publishable in some way so that they, too, can travel beyond the classroom and out into the community. A perfect example of this type of project is the recent Spring Break App Academy that is currently taking place in Fort Smith.