By Valerie Strauss , Updated: February 20, 2013
“It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to teach and help the youth there is no voice from the youth at all.” That’s the opening line in a video called “If students designed their own schools,” about The Independent Project, a high school semester designed and implemented entirely by students.
What did it look like? No quizzes. No tests. No grades. Students created their own learning materials and taught themselves and each other.
The Independent Project started in 2011 at Monument Mountain Regional High School, a public school in Massachusetts, after a student named Sam Levin advanced an idea about students creating their own learning environment in order to find the engagement and mastery he felt were lacking in many teacher-designed classes. Principal Marianne Young agreed to a pilot.
In this model, teachers serve as mentors and coaches, not as direct instructors, while students pose questions and find ways to answer them.
The pilot semester — in which eight students participated (one 10th grader, five 11th graders and two seniors) — was broken down into four parts: orientation, the sciences, the arts, and the collective endeavor, which all of the students would agree on a serious world issue and work together to find a solution or a piece of a solution. Students would come up with their own questions in each subject, research it and then teach it to the other students.
After the first semester, an evaluation was undertaken and changes were made to the model. Now several schools in the country have their own Independent Project.
The video was done by Charles Tsai, director of Learning Networks for Ashoka Canada, a global association of social entrepreneurs. He also works in the area of self-directed education through his organization, Social Creatives.
Here’s Tsai’s video: