Dexter Community Schools has worked on developing a new learning environment with the aim of bringing a more personalized and modern approach to education.
It’s called DCS Spark Innovative Learning Environment and it was presented at the school board meeting on March 8.
DCS Superintendent Chris Timmis said the school district has been working for years trying to find ways to personalize children’s education. He said that each student needs a different experience; some programs work well for one moment, for another it may not work and they require a different approach.
During the presentation, Timmis used the bridge near downtown Dexter as a metaphor for what schools are working on. Like the bridge, the public school system was built in the early 1800s.
He said the bridge was for the railroad with utilities and where the borders of several municipalities meet, and every year they see trucks getting stuck there trying to pass.
Timmis said school districts have 180 days and 1,098 hours each year to properly educate children. He said they do whatever they can to maximize that time, but like the bridge sometimes they try to fit in too much.
This part of the presentation was titled Educational Constraints of the Industrial Age versus the Needs of a Modern Learner.
During this school year, Timmis said he took the time to explore different approaches to learning with the aim of thinking differently.
During this time, they also did some reading.
Some of the inspiration for Spark comes from a book called “Dark Horse” by Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas. This book is about success through the pursuit of self-fulfillment.
Timmis said he offers a unique approach to personalizing and thriving in his life with principles that resonate so well. Rather than saying the destination makes you feel fulfilled, Timmis said the book’s four fundamentals could be viewed as a path to accomplishment.
The first principle is to know your micro-motives or why you enjoy certain things that you do and how these translate into your life.
The next is to know your strategies or what works for you. As an example, Timmis said some kids might learn to sit and listen better while others learn better to be active and work on a project, or maybe a combination. Each student has different needs and desires.
The third principle is to know your choices, that is, to choose your own path.
And finally, focus on the journey rather than the destination, and embrace it in the process.
Timmis said he tried to design a program around these principles. The first step would be to see the students embrace the principle of choice by making their own decisions and saying that they want to be a part of this program.
The program aims to support skills in the learner profile and the strategic vision of the district.
Spark is described as an innovative learning environment where learners can practice and develop skills from the DCS Learner Profile, which includes ideas for learning techniques such as collaboration, mentoring, community engagement and civic, reflective learning, productive struggle, exploration, social / emotional learning and social justice and equity.
Its learner is centered on a growth goal that will give students the chance to get to know themselves better in their own way, which will come from knowing their strengths, attitudes, skills, interests, learning styles, strategies and vulnerabilities. This will help the learners of this program to become the person they want to be.
One of the hopes of the program is that students will enjoy the process.
The core belief is: âThe learning experience is a joyful journey of self-discovery and growth in which learners understand the value of each other’s individuality. They are empowered and connected to the world in which they live. Learners have a voice and have a choice in their quest for self-fulfillment. Strong relationships between learners, trusted adults and the community develop confident, capable, empowered and lifelong learners for a socially just world.
Set up as an additional option for DEC students, the program is being developed for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
Students would participate in a learning studio, which is a multi-age space where students engage in collaborative projects. Through the pursuit of their own questions, learners explore their individual and collective interests while providing solutions to real-world problems.
Another part of the process will be for students to compile their work and time into growth and presentation portfolios.
The main features of the program will be mixed-age learning groups; interdisciplinary projects with community links; narrative feedback focuses on skills and abilities; subjects and content are dynamic with interest from students and teachers as guides and mentors.
A pilot of this program is taking place this month with the participation of 20 students in grades 3 through 6. They will explore the driving question of the impact of COVID on communities.
To learn more and see the full presentation, go to https://www.dexterschools.org/district/board-of-education/meetings and find the presentation under Meeting Folders.