Sometimes all you can say is WOW. It is truly inspiring to see an educational ecosystem that is driven by passionate teachers and positively mega engaged students. This is a private school for ‘gifted students’ and is in an urban setting in Aurora, Colorado. The platform is creative and experiential learning. I will not butcher their mission with my 2 hour take aways, so I would suggest checking out their website: The Logan School.
I can only report on my take aways from my limited time there, and I must say, and a short visit with these teachers and students has been as much or MORE powerful than my 3 days at the Reggio conference in Miami this year! The synergy between the magic of Reggio and the happenings at The Logan School are bubbling on the surface for me, at a nice slow simmer. Nice compliment.
Upon walking onto the campus of this school, you FEEL the vibe of freedom and creativity. The labyrinth and raised garden beds are obviously planned and created by students and in the process of becoming. Colorful doors adorn a rusted rail installation proclaiming and thanking donors and proclaiming stakeholder touch-points.
To encapsulate my feeling of complete verklempt–ness, and dizzy wonderment, I will do a bulleted list with some pictures, trying to explain to you how this place is DOING personalized learning in an honest and organic way!
The art there is amazing.
Students from kindergarten to second go to assigned specials offerings (they call them matrices), and the older kids (3rd through 8th) choose where they want to go. Because of these specialized opportunities, teachers get 6 hours of planning time per week. WOW! Also, it must be noted that specific ‘grade levels’ are not proclaimed here. Kids go where their needs fit. Accidentally, they are living true STEAM integration here.
Matrix classes are really outstanding.
When we talk about personalized learning, we think of the students doing things by themselves and ‘solo’. In this school, personalizing is about student choice and planning. Yes, they navigate by student projects/research which culminate in dissertation style expos for community and stakeholders. However, amongst this work, students are involved in these chosen pathways and activities. Here you will see the example of a matrix class. This was a critical thinking problem solving class. I watched the students (in teams) work through teacher developed challenges and today’s was really neat. They were designing an ‘animal’ out of found objects and the challenge was the list parameter in which they needed to work within.
Not really ‘classrooms’– more like ‘labrooms’
Kids have jobs to do in this school. They own the school and not only the room in which their lead teacher resides. Because of this freedom and purpose, there are no walking lines, no shuffling through hallways, and not much off task behavior. The teacher is shuffling between single kids and groups to give instant feedback, coaching or redirection. Teachers are casual and a part of the stream of learning that is living everywhere.
I was astounded by the lack of 1 to 1 technology. This might be shocking to some of you who have heard me wonder if personalized learning can be done without 1 to 1 devices; however, I am realizing that it can. A blend of robust technology that is available and “tool” driven in addition to a plethora of rich materials for hands on investigation and making all create an orchestra of sorts, a band of things that kids can use when they have a specific need. These kids are pretty used to showing their thinking visually, and the hands on piece was very evident and just plain awesome. Student work was displayed in ‘journey’ style, showing the process of learning as much or more than a finished product of learning.
Culture that is living and counts
We often pretend to have culture in our offices and schools. What does it mean? How does it evolve? How do you make it? Well, it is living here in an ethos of creativity, acceptance and risk taking. Students do not need a second to start engaging and conversing with you about their projects and mission/vision. Young students work daily for an amount of time with older buddies, and the work that they are producing together is tempered by patience and love. Community raw and real.
And some classical elements which work…foundation is embedded in everything from morning messages, interactive writing and thank you notes to experts who have visited. Grammar and word choice are coached and expectations are high because being a reader/writer/mathematician is imperative in this world and is part of being a learner. When reality and assuaging of curiosity are on the line, kids want to learn foundational skills.
It’s all about the getting away.
The field trip is a bloodstream of driving learning for the staff and students. Be it with large groups of students or smaller ones, these trips are content based and learner driven. Every piece of the journey is about learning and connecting to the community. Memories of these journeys and thinking made visible is everywhere.
Project driven but not really PBL
I like project based learning, but in this school, it is so individualized that the projects are just morphed in so organically. Students are jazzed completely about what they are doing and what they need to do. They also stop and help each other all the time. Here are some examples of what I saw…yes, they do the poster thing lots, but that truly is a way to show thinking to a community, and it adds to the atmosphere of learning which is great for stakeholders and visitors like me. It just works here.
In closing, I just have to say I love this school. There is no perfect school. Yes, this is a school for “gifted” kids, and yes I am sure they have their issues; however, as an outsider, looking in, I was moved to huge places of proclaiming, “Yes this can be done!”