CHANGEd: What if schools factored in experiment days like snow days? 60-60-60 #6

When scheduling, many schools factor in “snow days” – days that won’t be re-calendared for inclement weather cancellations. What if schools factored in experiment days like snow days? We could plan for radical pilots and seemingly outlandish learning designs to test various hypotheses. We could learn by doing and negate the argument, “We have too much to cover.” Call ’em…”grow days!”

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained

Possibility from the Mother (Nature) of Invention – Schedules

DISCLAIMER: This post is merely a “thinking post.” I am NOT announcing a change to the daily schedule at the Westminster Junior High. [That ought to make a few people read on!]

God did not create the school schedule. Administrators did. So…nothing is carved in stone. – Unknown

During this second semester, we have had some significant schedule changes due to weather. In January we missed an entire week of school, and the Junior High has compensated for the lost instructional time by altering what is typically our exam week in the final days of May. Also, because of the severe winds and rains of April, we have had to cancel or delay school on a couple of days. Throughout these disruptions to the expected and well-planned moments of school, our Junior High teachers have demonstrated remarkable flexibility and adaptability. They have modeled those 21st C skills by adapting and readjusting to the necessary changes in schedule thrown at us by Mother Nature. [Thanks, Junior High!] Students and parents have shown great understanding and flexibility, too. [Thanks, students and parents!]

So, by my reckoning, we have altered at least 7-8 days of school. There has been no real wailing or gnashing of teeth. People have adjusted. Perhaps we have been so flexible because you just cannot mess with Mother Nature. Perhaps we realize that there are a number of ways to schedule school. Throughout a typical year, we do have special days for L.E.A.P. (Leadership Experience Advisement Program). So, people must value that various modes and methods of learning require schedules that fit the myriad models of instruction. When we can plan and anticipate in advance, we can also be flexible with our normal 55-minute-class based schedule.

Well, all of this has me thinking a lot. If we can demonstrate flexibility and adaptability during the forces of Mother Nature, and if we can demonstrate flexibility and adaptability during planned, expected schedule changes for different modes of learning…then couldn’t we run a week-long (or a two-week long) experiment with a different schedule in 2011-12? Just to learn by doing?

Why would I even propose such an idea? Our school recently rolled out a vision statement for learning in the 21st century at Westminster. In the vision, among other things, we call for more integrated studies and project-based learning. These modes require longer blocks of time for activity, exploration, experimentation, discovery, and authentic learning. So, couldn’t we experiment with a schedule not too terribly different with our current schedule? Couldn’t we run an experiment and see what we think about one period a week per course being longer in time and function? Wouldn’t we learn immeasurably from having to walk and work in such a schedule?

We’ve shown we can adapt and exercise flexibility. We have the skills. Imagine what we could learn by using those skills to explore a new setting. Anyone game? I have a file of about 50 different school schedules. Below is but one example as a possible week-long experiment. I think some interesting preparations and possible outcomes could be explored and discovered. What do you think?