There is no doubt that modern education has helped to greatly increase the total knowledge of humankind, but at what cost?
Many are questioning the wisdom of keeping children in small classrooms for a large chunk of their waking hours. For one thing, it’s helping to exacerbate the modern problem of sedentary lifestyles and the health risks associated with sitting around all day.
There is also the problem of keeping kids engaged so that they actually retain the things that they are taught while they are at school. For many kids, education is all about facts that go in one ear and out the other.
To address these concerns and others, one school in Idaho is looking to take learning out of the classroom and into the wider world. At the Norwest Expedition Academy educators are trying out a more expansive education curriculum that is focused on real-world problem-solving.
That’s right, we’re not just talking about sending kids out to play games or taking them on field trips once a semester, this is about getting children out into the world and helping them to develop real skills.
One of the main examples they cite is their program of helping children to raise and sell chicken. While children at other schools are taught responsibility by being given an egg that they aren’t supposed to break these kids are given eggs that turn into the animals that make the eggs.
Children who have to raise their own chicken learn the true value of the meat and eggs that they find on their plate while other kids are left with the impression that food just magically appears in grocery stores and supermarkets.
While many schools introduce their children to the broader world with small assignments, lectures, and trips, the Northwest Expedition Academy is about getting kids to get truly involved in what they are learning about.
Using a plan developed by the Buck Institute the school gives kids projects that last for around a month. This helps children gain a deeper understanding of the subjects they study while also helping them to develop focus and perseverance.
Another unique aspect of the school is the way that it gets the community involved. Learning isn’t just about teachers and children, it also involves parents and other community figures. When outside expertise is needed teachers can take their kids out to the professionals who can offer them real-world insights.
Teachers, parents, and community members are also brought together to help judge the impact of projects to decide whether or not they should be duplicated, modified or cut. This is a school built on the idea that it takes a village to educate a child.
So far the Northwest Expedition Academy is still a very new experience. It opened in September of 2017, making it just a baby when you consider the fact that it’s located in a building that served as a school when it was first built over 80 years ago.
Only time will tell whether this ambitious school and its 23 teachers will be able to create a program that will serve as a model for the larger education system in America. But as of writing just about everyone involved seems to have a positive outlook for this ambitious experiment.