The student work above represents the efforts of students who were asked to research public education in the United State, synthesize their own theory as to the function of education in society, and create digital collages that represented those theories.
9th Humanities offers each student the chance to deeply explore his/her identity as well as relevant and engaging topics from the catalog of Sociology, Psychology, Design Thinking, and World Civilization. The fundamental thrust of the course is to offer a rigorous academic environment where each student is held accountable for developing his/her perspective, advocacy, perseverance, use of evidence, and refinement.
What do I mean by the phrase rigorous academics ? First and foremost, this course is designed to help each student grow profoundly and deeply as a writer, reader, speaker, and listener. I want all of my students to share in the extremely high standards of quality that I have as a well-qualified, deeply-committed, and incredibly enthusiastic professional in the field of education. In order to best facilitate deep, long-lasting learning in these areas, I implement student-driven projects rather than rote memorization and content-based multiple-choice tests as my primary means of instruction and assessment. Because I want every single one of my students to be successful in and well after college, and given the uncertain job field of the 21st century, my projects implore each student to grow as a creative problem-solver, collaborator, leader, innovator, community member, craftsman, and perhaps most importantly--as a learner.
My colleagues and I strongly believe that the best projects are the ones where students are empowered to make decisions, give and receive critique, make mistakes, take risks, create multiple drafts, publicly exhibit their work in a meaningful way, and authentically reflect on their mistakes and successes. All of these elements fall into the Animas High School teachers' shared notion of "deeper learning." The projects in this course, therefore, eschew what many non-experts assume from their own high school experience is "rigor." We tend to not focus on assignments that require rote memorization of dates, names, places, events, etc. not because we don't think these things aren't important--they are to an extent--but, rather because we believe that solely teaching and testing that knowledge is a fundamentally misguided approach to education. It's also incredibly boring and coincidentally doesn't truly prepare students for tests that are important. In order to help our Humanities students prepare for English, Reading, and Writing sections on standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, we've found great success by staying committed to implementing rigor-filled projects that allow students to "go deep." It's of note that our students consistently outperform local and state averages on the ACT language portions.
To echo the words of educational specialist, Larry Rosenstock, it has been my experience that life itself is, in fact, a project. Whether you are a student, parent, teacher, or community member, the singular focus on project-based learning that you will find in this class, and to a larger extent, Animas High School, is part of the immensely challenging, exciting, and vital re-imagining of a dated and ineffective education system that our country needs. Alongside my colleagues, it is our undying belief that students deserve the chance to be truly prepared not just for a college climate that is most decidedly shifting away from what students know towards what students can do with what they know--but, that students deserve preparation to stare down the mysteries, challenges, and complexities of a globalized, hyper-connected life that is well-lived, civic-minded, and holistically complete in the 21st century.