I’m often asked what is different about our school. It’s a conversation that we have often as a staff: what do we value? The realization that everybody values something different truly shifted my mindset. I’ve always believed that everyone should be able to believe whatever they want. However, when digging deeper into values, I realized how impactful our values are on our actions. At The Innovation School, our core values are summed up by the 4 Ps. A Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab describes the 4 Ps as projects, peers, passion, and play (read more about this group https://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/constructionism-2014.pdf). I will describe how The Innovation School adheres to our values through the 4 Ps.
Projects. We believe that there are endless ways to learn and to show learning. In Bloom’s Taxonomy, creating is the highest level of learning. When students build, collaborate, imagine and design, they have the best chance for retainment and understanding. Every day, our students have Inquiry. Inquiry is a time to delve deeper into different topics through discussion, research, and projects. We also strive to create hands-on activities across all subjects.
Peers. We believe that learning is social. Our school community is central to our school. Students are in mixed age classes (which we call Bands), which allows them to learn social skills that span across developmental ages. We have flexible seating that encourages students to move around and have interactions with others as they’re working. We have a student-led Judiciary Committee that meets to deal with any complaints written by students. The students partake in Restorative Circles to help work through big feelings. We have a Friday meeting every week in which students bring forward motions for changes that they’d like to see in our school. We have 3 recesses a day, plus a morning walk, all which encourage time with peers.
Passion. When students work on something they care about, their investment, work ethic, and interest is stronger. We encourage students to find their passions and dive in. We offer Learning Adventures in which students can choose from various activities that interest them and they want to learn more about. Within our core subjects such as math and reading, we help students find ways to apply their knowledge towards things that they’re interested in. For example, one of my students loves baking. When learning about fractions, I assign her baking work where she learns and uses fraction concepts.
Play. This is my favorite value, and what I truly believe makes our school so unique. Play is part of who we are as humans. I watch my own young children play at home and I see so much learning in everything they do. I feel like play sometimes gets a bad rap as being frivolous, meaningless, and chaotic. My first thought on this is that I think there is a time and a place for play to be nothing but that: just pure fun. I think this place absolutely exists within school. School should be fun and enjoyable. Why would our kids want to go somewhere every day if it wasn’t? My second thought is that play can be meaningful. As mentioned earlier, creating is the highest form of learning. Play is hands-on more often than not. I’ve also found that when students are happy, enjoying school, and having fun, then they are more open to the harder experiences that come their way, such as completing their work, conflict resolution, managing boredom, etc. Play creates a type of investment that keeps them wanting to come back.
When asked what we value as a school, my answer is the 4 Ps. I think these are perfect representations of what the students and staff do each and every day, and what ultimately makes TIS such an enjoyable place to be.
A collection of thoughts, ideas and reflections from our educators, students, and families.