On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my wife and I had a date to go see Lincoln. The movie was playing at Atlantic Station in Midtown, so we met up at Atlantic Station for a quick bite to eat before the show.
As we were walking, we noticed a “Pop-Up Restaurant.” I had no idea what a Pop-Up Restaurant was, but this one shared its definition right on the glass of the front door. I also looked it up on Wikipedia – Pop-up Restaurant. This particular Atlanta Pop-Up Restaurant also had it’s own entry online – “New Pop-Up Restaurant Opens In Atlantic Station.”
Well, if you know me, you understand that just about everything I see makes me think of project-based learning and educational innovation. I’ve somewhat trained myself to think, “How could that relate to school innovation?” It’s a sort of game that I play with myself.
So…what if we had Pop-Up Classes at school? What if we created time and space to invite students and teachers to offer quick-pitch courses that could be opened and operated for low cost, for a limited amount of time? A sort of mash-up between school as we know it and flash-mob learning. “Owners” and “chefs” could share their passions and their “offerings,” and others could partake in the mental nourishment. It could be a great way to try out ideas and methods, just like the Pop-Up Restaurants provide R&D experimentation for foodies. It sounds fun to me.
What do you think? Do you know any schools doing anything like this? I’d love to learn about connected examples.
I think that this is a fascinating “What if” and raises questions about why our schools are not sufficiently nimble and flexible to regularly take advantage of an idea that emerges and run with it. I think this is related to the tendency towards, as you and Grant have been discussing, “high amplitude/low frequency vs. low amplitude/high frequency” innovation. At my prior school, in the 3 weeks leading up to 1999 becoming 2000, we put a halt to the regular subject driven curriculum/schedule to engage in a cross-disciplinary and cross-grade inquiry about the concept of “the millenium.” Students explored topics connected to personal interests and teachers learned alongside their students. It was an exceptional moment, but energy intensive. As we moved into 2K, we went back to our routine and over time this spontaneous moment became a more traditional elective period we called “inquiry.” It was related, but not quite the same in terms of spontaneity.
In my current school, our high school has an elective program that we call “X-block,” which creates a space for classes that may meet from one to three days a week over the course of a trimester. All of the offerings are driven by the teacher’s passion and many of the teachers of these classes are students. This current trimester has a student-taught course on programming in python and a student-led social justice group exploring a number of diversity-related issues. It is one of the most-loved parts of the curriculum.
In our middle school, we recently converted our time-honored Medieval Pageant, which was primarily a student written dramatic production, to an experience focused around guilds that students chose based on personal interest (http://marksilberberg.com/post/18291803450/making-the-pageant-personal), We found an hour each week for the guilds to meet over a period 2 1/2 months where the teacher (the guild master) helped to facilitate the student-driven inquiry. Those guilds where the teachers knew when to support and when to step out of the way were the omnes that were most successful (e.g., the stonemason’s guild that decided to turn their research on medieval cities into a virtual world build in minecraft). The take away for us from this experience was that our students were desperate for opportunities to pursue and dig deeply into topics and questions that mattered to them. Finding more ways for this to “pop-up” has become a priority for us as we begin to look at a significant overhaul of our schedule to better suport this kind of “just in time learning.”
Thank you so much for the time you took to share such a detailed set of examples. I learned so much about possibilities and opportunities related to “pop-up classes,” and I loved reading about X-block in particular. I have to think that the more we share, the more we will imagine what is possible and doable in our schools. I wish I could be a student in one or more of your students’ X-block offerings. Maybe that’s territory for future MOOCs – student teachers offering what adults might not be able to offer in learning spaces.
I do think good effort is well spent figuring out how we might create more flexibility and spontaneity in schools.
Thanks again for your great and thought-provoking comment.
While teaching 5th and 6th graders, we often had “immersion weeks” the week before a vacation. Teachers and students decided what they wanted to learn about and voted for three choices (there were three teachers on the team). Students then chose what they wanted to be immersed in for that week. Some examples: art from ancient cultures, quilting (I headed up this one where the end product was a quilt for AIDS babies…the room looked like a sweat shop), court room drama, design technology. Great way to spend that week.
Thanks for the story about the 5th and 6th grade immersion weeks. How do the students and teachers like the week? Has there ever been any discussion or trial of doing something similar at other times of year?
I really appreciate you making your comment.
This kinda sounds like how classes get initiated by students at SudburySchool. http://webseitz.fluxent.com/wiki/SudburySchool
Bill, thanks for the link to Sudbury School.