Steve Goldberg is starting a school in the Fall of 2013 down in Durham, NC called the Triangle Learning Community Middle School. It’s an independent school, which gives him a bit more freedom to innovate. But I just love the concept nonetheless:
Mentor a socioeconomically and culturally diverse group of 20 middle school students for three years to pursue real-world project-based learning. The opposite of industrial model schools, we will build a strong sense of community and provide personalized attention as students discover and pursue their passions rather than a set curriculum. This does not mean students will sacrifice rigor in their academic development – they will work hard and dig deeply into subjects about which they are passionate. Students will become empathetic, self-directed, thoughtful, ethical, creative, engaged, curious and confident global citizens who will excel in high school and beyond.
Over the first two years in the program, students will gain confidence as active learners who take daily initiative to discover more about their world. Beyond this healthy curiosity, students will be encouraged and expected to work hard every day and follow through by completing quality inter-disciplinary projects that responsibly and thoughtfully contribute to society. Sixth graders will complete about 10 short projects over the course of the first year. Seventh graders will complete 3-4 more involved projects. Eighth graders will complete a six-month capstone project for an authentic audience. Graduates will leave confident that they can make a meaningful difference in the world.
Students who complete this three-year program will enter ninth grade ready to excel. Though they will take a non-traditional (but more meaningful) route to get there, graduates will be strong in English, math, science, history and conversant in at least one world language other than English. Most importantly, they will be self-directed learners who engage with the world on a regular basis and want to learn as much as possible. Work at Triangle Learning Community (TLC) will happen with equal intensity whether teachers are present or not, because students have an intrinsic desire to learn about topics they care passionately about.
Steve has also been keeping a blog detailing the methods that he and his teachers plan to use to make all of this happen. His recent posts on tackling the recent financial mess are a great starting point for thinking differently.
This is what I want for my kids. I know that their schools can’t necessarily replicate the structure of what Steve is doing, but I would hope they could see the merit in the approach and find ways to make inquiry happen in their classrooms at a much deeper level. Yes, they need some knowledge and some context to make sense of the world, all that stuff that’s going to be on the test. But they also need to know how to take that knowledge out into the world and deepen their understanding of it, put it to good use to solve meaningful problems. Our own “co-schooling” efforts revolve around that, but my fear is we’re raising a generation of kids won’t have the dispositions to deal with the world we’re handing them.