Featured Student Work
The Agile Learning Center @ Manhattan Free School
Manhattan Free School is a K-12 school (currently accepting students between 7 and 17 years old).
for Agile Minds...
The world is exploding with new information and high specialization. For children to learn to navigate this fast changing landscape, they need a chance to actually be at the helm of their learning experience, to practice making decisions and discover their gifts, talents and passions.
Children are natural learners. They are at their peak of mental flexibility and ability to assimilate ideas, insights and exploration. It is senseless to consume their days and evenings with the memorization and regurgitation of data for standardized tests on a narrow selection of subjects.
We live in an age where information is at our fingertips. Far more important are the skills of finding it, filtering it, integrating it, and using it in new and creative ways to build something valuable.
The ability to quickly translate a vision or idea into tangible results has always been a valuable skill. In today’s rapidly evolving world, it is a fundamental capacity of the leaders in every field. Daily activity at an Agile Learning Center is organized around this understanding.
A Sense of Purpose
What are you here to do? How do you discover your purpose? One thing we know is that you won’t find it without ample opportunities to explore. If you can’t try doing what you think you might love, you won’t find out whether or not you really love it.
We regularly hear from parents that they wish they’d had the opportunity to explore their passions a lot earlier so they could have developed a greater sense of purpose. Maybe they didn't have to change their college major 5 times, graduate with a degree they didn't really use, then finally figure out what they’re about in a mid-life crisis.
By high school, most of our students have figured out what their core passions are and are actively organizing their future around those things.
We don’t have a traditional curriculum, as in a set of subjects or classes one must take. Instead, we recognize that all social environments have a hidden curriculum which are the real lessons taught by the way social interactions are structured. So we have been conscious to craft the lessons of our environment.
These are the lessons we've built into our hidden “curriculum:”
- Identifying your own needs and priorities,
- Creating projects which accomplish those priorities,
- Organizing your time and activities around those projects,
- Focus and follow through on those projects toward a creative end,
- Sharing your creative output (in a digital portfolio),
- Reflecting on personal progress and impediments (in a personal blog),
- Co-creating a collaborative, supportive social environment,
- Responsibility for your action and inaction
- and Digital literacy
Schedule & Activities
If you look at how our days, weeks and activities are structured, you’ll see our days are quite literally dedicated to these things.
Each morning starts with a short (5 to 10 minute) meeting to set up the day where the kids and staff coordinate needs, schedules and post their focus items to their kanban boards. The week starts with an opportunity to arrange for outside offerings or major outings from the school. This is also the meeting where anyone can suggest changes in the way the school runs.
Afternoons close with sharing gratitude, updating kanban boards and noting any creative or reflective work that should be captured for the students digital portfolios or reflective blogs.
Education for a Fast Changing World
As traditional schooling fails to keep pace with the fast changing world we live in today, it is up to educational pioneers to create better models. Fortunately, it’s easy to improve on the assembly line, one-size-fits-all world of standardized testing. The trick is to truly shine.
How do we know if we’re succeeding like that? We judge it by level of inspiration of our students in inventing creative projects and new ways to learn. Are they so engrossed and engaged that they don’t want to leave at the end of the day?
Navigating computers, the Internet, and learning how to create, share and publish digitally are already considered basic skills in the modern workplace. The world our kids are growing up into will be even further down that road. This demands a whole new level of digital literacy.
Although our students choose their projects and domains of study, digital skills are built right in to many of the resources they use for learning and also their regular posts to their digital portfolios and learning blogs.
Self-Paced and Accelerated Study
Students organize their education around their passions and interests, and in doing so learn faster and more deeply than in settings where students are forced to follow someone else's curriculum, sequence and pacing.
If your child is an advanced learner in some domain, and you want to find a place designed for minimizing impediments and maximizing support for their learning and growth, you need to visit us!
A School as Cool as a Makerspace
In the 2012 school year, we started implementing the structures of an Agile Learning Center to update the "Free School" model for the 21st Century. An Agile Learning Center provides students with structure and support for the learning they choose to pursue. Students announce their intentions in the morning stand-up meeting, track their progress using Kanban boards, and work with a mentor/coach who supports their goals.
Just as the business world is replacing old, slow and hierarchical approaches with dynamic, adaptive and responsive structures like Agile Management,
We recognize that learning to make decisions comes from actually making them, and the best way to learn to make things happen in the world, is to be an active part of making them happen. Students and staff create our structures, practices and rules in the School Meeting where we use leading edge collective intelligence practices to optimize the group behavior and outcomes.
Our School Board, called The Assembly, operates in this same spirit, including parents, students & staff in the strategy, planning and direction of the school.