“Create something you love.” “Delve deeply into an area of personal interest.” “The experience of a lifetime.”
Listening to students talk about their experiences in several of SAS’ signature personalized learning opportunities—Catalyst, TRi time, and Quest—reminds many of us why we became educators.
As educators, above all we seek to inspire in our students a love and passion for learning. That passion brings joy and life to our school. It enables our students to become lifelong learners, ready to take on the challenges of learning in order to succeed in the rapidly changing jobs of tomorrow’s economy. And, equally important, it helps our students grow as people and lead in our communities. It is, in short, at the heart of our SAS vision of “cultivating exceptional thinkers, prepared for the future,”
What these personalized learning opportunities seek to do is to ask our students to take greater ownership of their own learning—to go, in effect, from being a passenger on their educational journeys to being the driver of those journeys. That is a big ask of both our students and our teachers. It is hard work. But, as both today’s students and our recent graduates tell us, it is the right work.
Programs like iTime in elementary school, TRi Time in the middle school, and Catalyst and Quest in the high school are just a few of the opportunities our students have to engage in self-directed learning. These programs encourage students to take interests or passions and then create their own learning path. I am impressed as I look at the breadth and depth of the projects our students take on. Below is just a small sample of the types of projects our students drove this semester.
For my Catalyst project, I worked to develop the science classroom of a middle school in Kerala, India that my grandfather had actually attended as a child. By fundraising and researching how to best utilize resources given to the school, I aimed to help the students see that science is less about memorizing textbooks and more about exploring and understanding ideas.
(Shreya Sridhar, Eleventh Grade)
“Coming out of the school musical, Beauty and the Beast, I really wanted to write the script of my own! My dream was to make a script for musical and make it as powerful as the script for Beauty and the Beast that I loved! But later down the road, I realised that at the time when it was two weeks left, I didn’t think that it was possible to make this as good as I wanted, but then I just told myself, make this how you want it to be.”
(Rajen D., Seventh Grade)
“In Quest, I'm studying how a different notation for logarithms can possibly increase students' understanding of the concept of logarithms. I'm developing a grounded theory that makes it applicable in other math class situations. In short, I'm trying to make math more entertaining.”
(Xiang Li, Twelfth Grade)
These types of self-directed projects are excellent preparation for college and life. As I met with alumni earlier this semester, I was pleased to hear how these programs had positively impacted their ability to thrive in university classes, internships, and work study programs.
We recognize that it is not easy—or risk free—to move students from the passenger seat to the driver seat. I want to thank our teachers and students for their willingness to be bold and thoughtful in facing these challenges. We know we have much to continue to learn in making these shifts. And, we are proud of the progress you are making!