The AHA Moment

Shabbat lunch at my father’s and the question comes up, “How’s the new school doing?”  An update on parlor meetings and parent/donor interest inevitably turns back to “explain it to me again.”

As I start to explain Project-Based Learning’s holistic approach to learning in which English, History and other humanities are not taught as separate subjects, I hear the near universal objection from those steeped in our traditional subject-by-subject learning model:

“How can you not teach English? Don’t you know the story?”

“Which story?” I ask.  (In 85 years my father has accumulated a LOT of stories!)          

So he tells the story of how the scientist, a Ph.D. in Biology, got her big break almost 30 years ago. After returning from a conference, the scientist was asked to write a report for the rest of her company about the proceedings. The CEO was so impressed by her ability to write clearly that he asked her to start attending management meetings to take notes and write up the minutes. Additional promotions followed from there.

AHA! Now you know why we need Project-Based Learning. We want all our graduates to be as valued by their future colleagues, employers and collaborators as your scientist.

At The Idea School, students and graduates with superior communication and writing skills will be standard, not exceptional. Instead of multiple choice tests to see if students successfully memorized the significant dates of the Napoleonic wars, they will give presentations of how Napoleon came to power, what led to his downfall, and what we can learn from it.

Yes, our students will spend less time memorizing lists of vocabulary words. They may never spend time with different colored pencils highlighting the parts of a sentence. 

What they will do, is acquire the writing skills needed to communicate and explain what they have learned and then apply that knowledge in real time to answer real world questions.  As discussed above, those are the critical skills that will lead to their success as adults.

History teachers are often asked by students “does spelling count in this class?”  At The Idea School, spelling, grammar, word choices and even font styles always matter.  Why?  Because when you apply to colleges and for jobs, write grant proposals or pitch a new educational model, presentation is as important as content.