I had the wonderful privilege of visiting Northfield Community Middle School this Monday. If you ever get the chance, take the time to stop and learn what is happening there. Under the leadership of Glenn Robbins and with the support of his interim superintendent, Robert Garguilo, this school is mastering the challenges of Common Core and providing an incredibly rich learning experiences for students. They took the model of edcamp and adapted it for use with students. With the help of Kevin Jarrett, an Edcamp founder and Board member, they worked on devising the best plan for middle school students. You can read all about it in the previous blog post. In short, the students choose a topic in which they are interested and then spend one period for five days, delving into it, without the fear of being graded.
What I want to share are the comments of the students as I toured the school. This is what school and learning should always be about, school as a place where students are known and heard; where their opinions matter and where their thoughts bring about real change in their world.
"I used to hate school, and now I can't wait to come." (Remeber that the Edcamp period is only one period a day, and yet it is changing how the students see school as a whole!)
"I now am friends with people that I never even talked to before. We ended up in an Edcamp period about illustrating song lyrics. No one even knew that I drew before, but now I have people that I connected with because we like the same music. Now people are asking me to make drawings for them, because they saw that I can draw. That would never have happened before."
"The hardest part about Edcamp period is choosing which one to take.There are so many topics that are interesting!"
"Because of Edcamp period, my teachers don't just see me as someone sitting at a desk. They understand more about me, about how I like to be creative."
"It's fun to watch teachers learning too. A lot of time we are figuring it out together, which is cool."
"It is easier to take risks because there isn't a rubric. I can put on a gold star if I want to. It isn't scary to try something that is different or new."
"The Edcamp period gives me a chance to try out different things, which helps me to think about what I might like to do when I grow up. I can experiment to see if I like something. And if I find out that I don't like it, it doesn't matter. I'm not judged for not being good at it. "
"It's cool that the ideas for what we will be working on came from us, and if we think of something else that we want to add to the list, we can just add it."
"I like that there is "maintenance" time as a choice for when I am absent or fall behind; it gives me a chance to catch up."
"My parents weren't too sure about the Edcamp period, because they had never had anything like it, but now they get it a little more."
"Now I have something to talk to my parents about at the end of the day. Instead of answering, "How was your day?" with a shrug and heading upstairs to my room, I want to tell them about what happening in my Edcamp period."
This Edcamp period is clearly showing how awesome kids are! Three cheers to the Northfield administration and teachers for stepping outside the norm, for taking a risk for students! It has clearly paid off!