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S E C T I O N 2 Schools N E W S O F L O C A L S C H O O L S , S T U D E N T S , T E A C H E R S , A N D PA R E N T S lls : a w ng d o n l o k y e e lb we Schoo pioneers ourses c w Hillvie n learning -o hands Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac A Hillview student holds a rocket he designed during a 321 Blast Off session, part of the school’s Mini-Courses program. On the cover: Students designed and built a structure in a course called The House That Hillview Built led by woodshop teacher Mike Bratt. The house is being donated to a playground for farmworkers’ children near Salinas. Photo by Kirsten Spalding. Story by Parke Treadway, the parent of a Hillview student and part of a parent volunteer group that helped plan the program. A cross the country, parents, students and educators are considering how schools can better prepare students for the dramatically evolving world into which they are graduating and engage a new generation of learners in more problem-solving, handson experiences around high interest topics. Menlo Park City School District’s Hillview Middle School is doing just that, under the banner: “School. Only different.” During the week of March 17-21, Hillview launched a weeklong learning choice program called “Mini-Courses.” Teachers and community members collaborated in planning unique experiences that allowed for the sharing of personal interests and strengths. To this end, nationally recognized Principal Erik Burmeister challenged his staff to create week-long courses based on anything they felt especially passionate about. The result was 43 vastly dif- the Army Corps of Engineers ferent courses encompassing Bay Model, Castle Rock Park, everything from scuba to bak- Elkhorn Slough, Angel Island, ing to design thinking to crime Blackhawk Museum, Stanford solving, and almost anything Anatomy Lab, Apple Computer else a child could dream of and Electronic Arts. learning. DurOver the past ing the week, t wo years, students took ‘When I got home each Hillview has a hiatus from night, I was greeted by embarked on a their traditionprocess of real classes and children eager to show design to bring pa r t icipated its teaching and me photos on their solely in the learning stanphones of their day’s dards, along subject of their choosing. activities. Yes — my with its campus Lessons in climate, on par children urged me to with its statec h e m i s t r y, writing, phys- view content on their of-the-art new ics, PE, woodbuildings. The phones!’ shop, music mini-cou rse and more were p r o g r a m PARENT TIMOTHY HARRIS communicated proved to be not with textbooks and tests, fun and exciting; more than but with hands-on activities, that, however, it was a proacan extensive roster of guest tive response to the need to speakers, over 85 exciting field prepare students with the 21st trips all over the Bay Area century skills of creativity, coland a closing day of perfor- laboration, problem-solving and mances and events. During decision-making, critical thinkthe week, students logged over ing, adaptability and flexibility, 2,500 miles by train, bus, van and communication. and on foot to visit places like The program also gave the the Marine Mammal Center, staff the focused opportunity to experiment with new approaches to teaching. Math teacher Sayre Dolan spent his week leading a course called Outdoor Survival; students visited Hidden Villa Farm for ropes course and survival training, and had first aid and survival instruction from EMTs. The trip culminated with overnight camping at Memorial County Park. “The best part for me, as a teacher, was that kids were asked to go outside their comfort zones to experience things that they normally might not, meet new people and have experiences with different people than they would usually hang out with,” Mr. Dolan said. “I also loved the opportunity to get to know students that I don’t have in class and have a different perspective of the students than I get in the classroom.” Mini-courses creatively address the expressed desire of students to have more opportunities for engagement around topics that interest them. While parentchild communication during the middle school years may often leave kids rolling their eyes and parents wondering what really goes on in those adolescent minds, during mini-course week the walls came down as students returned home effusive about what they learned and experienced. “I was lucky enough to have four eighth-grade boys over to our house after their first day of Behind the Scenes Sports,” parent Daren Tuchman said. “The boys came in gushing with excitement. Each one was fighting for airtime to share with me different stories from their day. “They loved hearing about the deaf athletes’ plights to overcome their adversity and succeed. They surely loved the Sports Illustrated columnist sharing his stories of encounters with famous athletes! As parents we all yearn for our kids to express details of their day at school —to have all four of these boys engaged with me for so long was fantastic!” The Behind the Scenes Sports course, taught by beloved Hillview PE teachers Harry Bell and Phil Eaton, toured the Stanford athletic facilities and AT&T Park. See LEARNING BY DOING, page 23 April 2, 2014 NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN21

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