"The world needs more people who see the hardest challenges as interesting puzzles and have the creative capacity, skills, and tenacity to make change happen"
Blue School. New York, New York.
Sensing a gap in how schools operated, the founders of the school strove to bring its quirkiness and love of inquiry into education.
As part of the curriculum, kids in grades 2 to 8 come up with ways to improve recycling, create 3D models of New York City, and fix home appliances. They gain an intimacy with real-world problems that few kids are exposed to in learning their times tables with flash cards.
Its system of "dynamic learning" ranges from age 2 to grade 8. No matter their age, kids are taught that creating and implementing novel ideas is a critical set of skills.
"Studies show that fostering and explicitly teaching social and intellectual skills in school results in the adaptable thinkers, collaborative problem solvers, and irrepressible innovators that an unknowable and quickly changing world demands," Blue School officials tell Tech Insider.
Big Picture Learning. Providence, Rhode Island.
The Big Picture Learning model breaks down the walls between education and the working world.
From the beginning, k-12 students learn their creative passions will come first. To help stoke those passions, students are paired with mentors who work in the fields the students want to someday enter.
"The most important element of the education at a Big Picture Learning school is that students learn in the real world," says Rodney Davis, communications director at Big Picture. The system is currently in place at 55 schools nationwide.
To that end, each student completes an LTI, or Learning Through Internship. "The projects are connected to the student's interests and meet the needs of the mentors," Davis says, whether that involves starting a business, fixing up cars, or learning the letter of the law.
AltSchool. San Francisco, California. The school of Silicon Valley.
AltSchool is a complete departure from traditional education, shirking the traditional testing model for one that improves technology skills and gets kids thinking flexibly so they can adapt as the world changes.
Kids turn everyday objects into circuit boards and learn 3D modeling to build playhouses, all in the pursuit of feeling comfortable with the future that greets them.
"The school experience can be so much more than consumption of facts and figures," CEO Max Ventilla tells Tech Insider. "We should be educating children from a whole-child lens where they learn to problem solve, social-emotional learning is prioritized, students should be part of the goal-setting process, and so on."
AltSchool is quickly growing. The school, which educates kids from ages 4 to 14, began in San Francisco in 2013 and is now expanding to Brooklyn, New York, and Palo Alto, California. In the future, AltSchool plans to go nationwide.
Sra Pou Vocational School. Sra Pou village, Cambodia.
Designed by Finnish architecture firm Rudanko + Kankkunen, the all-ages Cambodian school was built by community members, for community members, to learn how to turn their passions into full-fledged businesses. A local NGO provides teachers to guide students on that path.
Building the school was a lesson in itself, as architects created the structure side by side with local residents, giving them pointers on how to construct similarly styled buildings on their own.
The school allows families to gain independence, Rudanko + Kankkunen explain. Rather than toil away in low-paying jobs, men, women, and children can learn the ins and outs of pricing their homemade goods and selling them to people in their area.
When it's not in use as a school, the building serves as a town hall for democratic decision making and community meetings.
Brightworks School. San Francisco, California.
Launched by visionary Gever Tulley in 2011, Brightworks takes some of the most dangerous things parents tell their kids not to do and makes an entire curriculum out of them.
Kids in grades K to 12 get dirty, play with fire, take apart home appliances, and complete art projects all in the same day.
"We invite students to be co-authors of their education, embracing and supporting the individual and the unique set of skills and interests that motivate them," Tulley and Justine Macauley, Brightworks' program coordinator, tell Tech Insider in an email.
The school is housed in an expansive warehouse filled with art and forts and makeshift theaters — items all meant to tap into kids' creative side.
"The world needs more people who see the hardest challenges as interesting puzzles and have the creative capacity, skills, and tenacity to make change happen," Tulley and Macauley say. They are people "who take joy in contributing instead of consuming, participating actively in the world, and who empathize across social and economic boundaries."
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