At least for now . . .
Ladies and gents, PACE 10 is here.
Personalized and Cooperative Education (PACE)10 is the name the crew developed for the mass customized learning, project based learning, student led, differentiated pilot program thing I discussed way back here.
I like it. I like the obvious connections to students going at their own paces, while also setting paces. I like that it avoids the hot topic nomenclature in favor of more universal language that still applies. And I like that I can so easily envision a PACE 9, a PACE 11, 12, and so on.
I wanted to post over Labor Day weekend about the first days of class, but it was just . . . too overwhelming to think about. Not that it had gone poorly — far from it. I just felt consumed talking about it for five days straight, of which only two were spent with actual students.
This is the most ambitious undertaking of which I’ve ever been a part at Mt. Blue. I’ve got 14 years of curriculum design and alignment, writing assessment initiatives, school reform movements, ad hoc committees, course development, just as most any educator with ten or more years has on the resume. I am excited and terrified and . . . exhausted again.
It’s all good.
So now we’ve got a name and we’ve also got a first project: a student constitution for the new Mt. Blue campus.
The social studies curriculum calls for an understanding of the U.S. Constitution, so we’ve decided to dig into those understandings with the intention of crafting a working draft of a proposed student constitution at Mt. Blue. This is a particularly relevant project as we are in the process of fully integrating Foster Technical Center and Mt. Blue High School into the complete Mt. Blue campus. We’ve a faculty Visioning Committee responsible for developing a unified student handbook for the new campus and we thought, “What better time to have students advocating for their values?”
The next three weeks call for their time with me spent digging into a graphic novel explanation of the U.S. Constitution and developing a strategy for constructing the constitution. In social studies, they will learn about what goes into a constitution, the questions that must be asked and answered, the values and ideals that must be considered. And in biology, they will use their understanding of life, how to define it, how to determine it, and apply that thinking to both the U.S. Constitution and their new document. One of the essential questions for this unit: “To what extent is a ‘living document” such as the Constitution actually alive?”
And we are hoping to accomplish all this in three weeks. At that point we hope to have a draft of our student document crafted. In a perfect world of differentiation, the student constitution project will become an anchor, where those students particularly invested, can continue to develop, continue to demonstrate understanding, and continue toward actual implementation. Before the year is out, we intend to present to the Visioning Committee, the administration, and the student body.
If it all goes well, we will have a true artifact of authentic assessment developed through project based learning in a customized learning environment. (Is that enough edu-trending for ya?)
We’ve found as much as the ultimate goal is for students to take full responsibility for their learning, we have to take some baby steps first. This project as as much a product of the faculty brainstorming as the students and I think that is okay. When I asked them “Do you want to share your ideas or hear mine?” they quickly responded, “Yours! Tell us yours!” It’s a great feeling to know they trust me. It also tells me we’ve got some work ahead of us in shaping this into the experience we know it will be. Everyone involved needs to get a better sense of that looks like, how it works in practical terms, and how to honor it in philosophy.