Thrive Publics Schools were the latest visit on my journey visiting innovative institutions in California. Thrive is a relatively new school with a well crafted vision. I met CEO, Dr Nicole Assissi and School Director Shelli Kurth on my visit as well as observed a couple of lessons to help me understand their approach. A recent article about Thrive Schools approaches can be summarised here that kind of mentions what I observed in the school.
The schools uses project based learning approaches (or what the school calls ‘Learning to Do’) but also ensures mastery and that there are no learning gaps through their blended learning approach (or ‘Learning to Learn’ as it is called at Thrive). It also as a focus on social emotional learning (‘Learning to Be’). The school has many features in common with other innovative schools i’ve seen, distributive leadership, highly personalised and authentic curriculum built on mastery.
As I have already written and learned a lot about interdisciplinary projects and their power to engage and to dive deeply into content, in this school I focused on their distinctive features. One class that I observed was a Math class facilitated by an educator called Glen. This was my first experience of a blended learning classroom and it was interesting to observe how it worked. Glen was using a range of tools, some tech and some not to assess individuals mastery for particular topics in Math. Blended learning essentially allows teachers to track where students are at and scaffold where required for the individual. In my own practice, I know that my lessons are not personalised to this extent.
Glen was using Thrive’s ‘rotational model’ when I was in his classroom. What was also remarkable was that this was a class of 5,6,7 & 8th graders (and one 4th grader!), but Glen was able to personalise and adapt the lesson across the age range. He was using dynamic groups that constantly change depending on where the students are in their learning continuum. Glen had his class of students split into 4 groups, using the data he has accumulated to create the groupings. On one table he was teaching a group of students about a particular Math problem. Another group is working on applied Math problems and the other groups are working on online testing or online teaching programmes. Glen will essentially have a separate plan for each group in his lesson. All of the data he needs is inputted into an elaborate spreadsheet that really tells him individuals progress and where concepts need re-teaching and so on. He is using programmes such as ST Math for online Math problem solving, and Waggle and MAP testing to measure students academic progress to help inform his planning.
I guess there are a lot of programmes available for blended learning in Math. In other subjects such as humanities or an interdisciplinary approach , it is important for students to master the content (Knowledge Understanding and Skills) that matters. Within a project, google classroom, docs and forms can be used to effectively assess student progress and mastery. At Thrive, students will have a separate Math, Science and Humanities lessons as part of their day. Interdisciplinary projects were a separate part of the timetable as well as elective subjects, which has some similarities and differences to other schools I have visited. Blended learning and use of online resources must be used in innovative interdisciplinary curriculum designs to ensure that learning is mastered.
In the evening after my visit to Thrive. I was back at HTH to see the culmination of a 12th Grade class led by John and Megan at HTH CV. The Re-Vision Project written about previously, involved students in 12th grade setting up their own design consultancy firm. This led to several projects being carried out for clients in the Chula Vista community. Many of which are carrying on next year. The presentations were simply stunning, university third year students would struggle to present in such a professional manner! Allowing students to work on a real world project like this could be essential part of future 6th form or university dissertation type projects, who knows? Some photos below highlight the work, my favourite being the group that designed a bioswale. A real interdisciplinary project that incorporates the elements of human centred design, Biology, Math, Geography, Business, not to mention 21st century attributes and so on.