Born from the joint visions of two progressive educators, the iSchool is an amazing program. Founders Alisa Berger and Mary Moss were handed only one design parameter from New York’s DOE – rethink high school. After spending some time there last spring, I can confirm, mission accomplished, high school re-thunk.
The school is focused on two distinct goals:
1) Preparing students for state tests, and
2) Developing critical thinking, independent learning, and other goals that are not measured on state tests, but are relevant for success beyond high school.
They chose these goals after interviewing 200+ high school teachers and countless graduates of their middle school (Mott Hall II), who were enrolled in college.
Goal #2 is reached by engaging students in MODULES, also called challenge-based learning. The 9-week, interdisciplinary explorations immerse students in ‘real world projects’ for two hours, daily. Talk to any student at iSchool and you will hear enthusiastic praise for the Modules; they are hands-down the highlight of the program.
I have been thinking about one of iSchool’s Modules today…Called Voices and Memories, it relates to September 11.
Students experienced a seminar-like class giving them foundational (historical) knowledge moving through time from 9/11/01 backwards to the Crusades, investigating conflict and connections between Islamic/Western civilizations. Then, the students chose a part of the world to study and analyze the reaction to 9/11 there. Next, they conducted video conferences with students in that part of the world to get their feedback on drafts of the 9/11 Memorial. Finally, they reported their findings back to the Memorial committee, which incorporated student analysis into the Memorial plans. Now, student work is part of the 9/11 Museum archives and is on exhibit at the Tribute Center.