Please Share My Passion For Education!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Who said we are not old enough?

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.
     - John F. Kennedy



Participation Nation:

Almost every citizen in our democracy has the right to vote and, therefore, impact who becomes the next mayor, governor, president, school board member, or other elected office.  Of course you have to be 18 to vote, but do you have to be 18 to make an impact?  


It was time to teach about elections!  Obviously this would be reserved for Social Studies class, correct?  Not so fast!  The Communities program at Oshkosh North High School implements a Compassion-Based Learning model which ties together social studies, science, literacy, and leadership, and business courses.  Instead of compartmentalizing the subject areas into silos, the Communities program has done a wonderful job of breaking down the "brick walls" of these silos and teaching students that the "real world" is a combination of every subject area.  Reading, writing and  speaking are integral parts of the elections process and many of the decisions that are made by our elected officials are impacted by science, whether it be from research funding, to environmental issues, to health care.  This past year, by the time we had reached the "Elections" unit, the culture had been created and students understood that life is interdisciplinary.  During the unit, students were introduced to the major elections that were taking place and compared them to elections from the past.  Students discussed the importance of the elections process and the impact that elected officials could have on decisions which affected everyone.  Students learned how to do research using primary and secondary sources of information.  These, along with other things we did, are all things that I envision students doing during a typical elections unit in school.  This wasn't a typical elections unit in school, however.  This is COMPASSION-BASED LEARNING.  Our staff was determined to show the relevance and application of this topic and to tie it to something the students were passionate about.  We wanted to empower them.  We wanted to encourage them to do a hands-on project that would not only solidify their knowledge about this topic, but would help make our community a better place. 




None of our students are 18 years old, though.  Could they really have an impact on the elections?  Absolutely!!!  Students began to brainstorm ideas and were soon convinced that each of them could have a larger impact on the elections than than someone who remained quiet and simply cast their one vote.  Social Studies teacher Rick Leib, along with feedback from students decided on the following project:

Participation Nation!


We invited politicians in to speak to our students and were fortunate enough to get two wonderful speakers (one from each party).  Next, students compiled research and decided upon the topics that were the "Most Important" regarding the presidential elections.  Students divided into groups and spent time researching these topics.  They worked hard to develop non-partisan explanations and the history of each of these topics.  Then with the help of Fox Valley Technical College and one of their very benevolent instructors (Dan Kretz), the students began to write up these summaries so they could be posted on a website.  The website would act to inform voters of the issues that were important to this election.  They felt that, although they could not vote, they could impact the elections by educating anyone who was uncertain of the issues.


Many students were excited!  They wrote and revised their explanations of the topics.  The students then decided to promote their work and talked to area television stations and radio stations.  Several of our students were invited to speak live on radio stations, to create "vote" commercials on a radio station, and to speak in front of a television camera describing the project for the news.  Although the students were nervous, they did a wonderful job and represented our project admirably.









Students also decided to make signs encouraging people to vote.  On "elections day" students  walked around with signs encouraging people to vote.  They talked with their parents, friends, neighbors, and community members and encouraged everyone to express their beliefs by casting their vote.




The experience was wonderful.  I have never in my life seen a large group of teenage students so excited for an election.  During the debates the students engaged in "Forum Discussion Sessions" on Edmodo and Google in which questions were posted by teachers and student moderators and other students would answer.  Question such as:  Who do you think is winning this debate as of now?  
What do you notice about their body language?  Do you think the moderator is doing a good enough job of controlling the debate?  We had the majority of our students watching and commenting on a presidential debate on several different nights.

This project provided an opportunity to learn about elections, politics, history and a variety of other "content" topics.  Students also learned about many 21st century skills including collaboration, communication, research, critical thinking, argumentation, etc...  Most importantly the students had PASSION!!!  The students, who were all under 18, were not supposed to matter in this election.......but they DID!!!  They took the initiative, believed in themselves, and created an enthusiastic environment that was contagious.  The website, which can be found at 
http://www.participationnation.info/important-election-facts/ received over 22,000 views and compliments from many voters.  Our students impacted the elections, made a valuable contribution to society, became empowered and proved that THEY MATTER!!!







Thank you for reading this!
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns, please let me know.

oliver.schinkten@oshkosh.k12.wi.us
Twitter:  @schink10

Oliver Schinkten
Co-Founder of Communities at ONHS

Monday, June 24, 2013

An Important Message About ComPassion-Based Learning

When the best leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'
                -Lao Tzu 


Passion-Based Learning.  20-Time.  Genius Hour.  Innovation Time.  Fed-Ex days.  In my opinion, this is the most effective way of teaching students if you want them to learn how to learn, become enthusiastic about learning, and remember stuff at a deeper level for a longer time.  This philosophy is gaining in popularity, but I feel it is important to WARN ANYONE WHO IS CONSIDERING TRYING THIS!!!

I have implemented passion-based learning methodology in my classroom for several years and the results are powerful and jaw-dropping.  When you allow students the autonomy to choose topics and methods which they are passionate about, and then find any teachable moment to teach them assist them in their learning, the results are staggering.  Instead of trying to force feed information down their throats, they will be running to you with question after question after question.

I have had the opportunity to speak to many educators about some of the passion-based learning styles and activities that I have been implementing including 20-time, menu units, etc....  Every time that I have ever spoke about this, whether to elementary teachers, middle school teachers, education students in college, there always a high percentage of them that REALLY like it.  I have had many of these teachers try this out and then report back to me.  I would love to say that 100% of them had glowing reviews about what a wonderful experience they had, but this isn't true.  In fact, about 25%+ report just the opposite.  It BOMBED!



I have really been looking hard into why this bombs sometimes.  It isn't for the typical reasons that the "haters" think it is.  It isn't because "it was just an unmotivated class".  After investigating this further and asking questions the answer became quite obvious.  This next paragraph is of utmost importance if you are considering implementing this style of teaching!!!

You are the tour guide on their voyage to learn!  I have been on many tours and seen many tour guides.  Some of them talked monotone and seemed bothered by my questions.  Some seemed passive and sick of working.  Some seemed so freakin' excited that I wanted to take the tour again right after it was done.  Which type of tour guide are you willing to be.  Your class is like a sports team.  You are the coach.  If you are bringing a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the table, you will most likely have a team with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.  If you want students to be passionate and enthusiastic about learning......then you need to tie your shoes, and dive in.  Be enthusiastic.  Show them passion.  Answer every question with a big smile and a follow-up question.  Inspire every student to go a little bit further with their project and with their learning than they normally would have.  Congratulate and complement them often.  Choose one of your passions and investigate it with them.  Tell other teachers, principals, custodians how proud you are of the students and there hard work and tell them to stop in and see it.  Take pictures of them working and tell them you cannot wait to show the other teachers how involved they are.  

In summary:  You are the spark plug.  Passion and Enthusiasm are contagious.  If you walk in and try to sit back and check your email, stand and talk to another teacher, tell kids to be quiet and get to work, threaten taking "points" away.......it will FLOP and you will hate it.





Unfortunately, there are many teachers out there looking for the "lesson in a can" that magically works without putting forth any effort.  IT DOESN'T EXIST and you SHOULDN'T BE TEACHING ANY MORE.  Teaching is hard work.  Teaching takes enthusiasm, commitment, the ability to take chances, fail, and get back up swinging for the fences.  If you are looking for a way that you can have the kids "work" so they will not bother you or so you can get something else done......please.....for the students sake.......don't try this.





In the meantime.....read and watch everything you can by Daniel Pink, Angela Maiers, Sir Kenneth Robinson, Michael Michalko, Seth Godin, etc.....  Inspire yourself before you try to inspire others.
If you have any questions, concerns, comments, suggestions, great stories, please comment.

You can reach me at:
oliver.schinkten@oshkosh.k12.wi.us

Twitter:  @schink10

Check our pilot program out at:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Communities-at-Oshkosh-North/140437179424843



Communities
at Oshkosh North High School

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why Can't Every Lesson Make an Impact Like This?


I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
                         -Maya Angelo



I have been teaching for 12 years, yet it was nothing like I had ever seen before. Midway through the school year and during a unit about war, I saw students working with a level of passion that I have never seen before in the classroom. During this project I saw engagement, excitement, and enthusiasm at high level.  These were 9th and 10th grade students learning about war, yet they were more engaged then one can imagine.  During this unit I saw fear and I saw confidence.  I saw frustration and I saw celebration.  I saw tears and I saw laughter.  I saw generation gaps fade into friendships.  I saw genuine altruism.  I saw a group of 14-16 year old students make a difference in their community.  I saw learning.  I saw students understand that they matter!

In a previous post, I explained my philosophy on education and the new program that I co-founded with three wonderful educators (Rick Leib, Julie Dumke, and Brad Weber).  Please read this if you want to know more about our program:  http://compassionbasedlearning.blogspot.com/2013/06/com-passion-based-learning-next-step.html


It was a truly interdisciplinary unit.  Our students worked hard to learn about the wars.  They mainly focused on World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War.  They learned about events that led to the war, they learned about the culture that existed during these times, they learned about the diseases that soldiers contracted in foreign lands, they learned about the battles and the results.  They learned about the consequences and the outcomes.  They learned about the struggles with PTSD.  They wrote, read, researched, and discussed  the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of war.



Students worked hard to research the wars.  They were also fortunate enough to hear from several guest speakers who had experiences from this time including holocaust survivor Henry Golde and author and veteran Inky Jungwirth.

During this time, the students and staff worked hard to line up 75 veterans from either WWII, Vietnam, or the Korean War that would be willing to let our students interview them. 


Once our students were prepared, we had a "meet and greet" so that we could pair students up with veterans and let them introduce themselves.  About a week alter students began to set up times to interview their veteran.  Each student had been taking workshops on how to properly interview people, what questions to ask (we even had a local reporter come in to speak with the students to mentor them), and how to work the video cameras and sound.


The students began interviewing.   Each student was responsible for conducting an in-depth interview of their veteran in an attempt to capture the stories that they had and the lessons they had learned.  The students were also responsible for setting up their video camera, taping the interview and then saving and editing the video into "stories" in the following weeks.  At the end of the project, each students had conducted and taped and interview and then learned how to video edit the "stories" they created along with the complete interview and burn it to a DVD.  We distributed copies of the DVD's to the respective families so that they had a priceless timepiece for their family.  The feedback that we received from families was outstanding.  We had letters, emails and phone calls from family members saying how happy they were that the students did this and were able to get them to talk about so much. For many of the families, they were learning about stories that they had never heard before!

To finalize the unit, we partnered with the local Veterans Museum which was being completed.  It was a great opportunity for us to highlight our veterans and to draw attention to the new military museum that was going up.



That night was spectacular.  The students were in charge of planning, designing, organizing, creating, hosting, and running the event.  We had students that would open the doors and welcome guest to the event.  We had students ushering and helping seat our guests.  We had students getting food and drinks for the guests.  Once the program started, with about 300 people present, we had students emcee the event.  It was a great opportunity for them to improve on their public speaking skills, and they completed the challenge wonderfully.  We showed some of the "highlighted stories" that students made, we sang the national anthem, and we played a slideshow highlighting and showing a picture of each veteran that we interviewed.  This was followed by our high school chorus singing each of the Service Songs for each branch of the military while those veterans stood up proudly.



By the end of the night, which finalized the unit, I felt that I had a much better understanding of war and everything that went along with it.  It was the first time that war felt "real" to me (the textbook just never had that affect) and I think the students experienced that as well.

There were connections made between teenagers and elderly veterans.  There were altruistic citizens created as many of our students were empowered by the project because they saw how big of an impact they could have on someone else's lives.  There were knowledgeable, passionate, and enthusiastic learners created.  The class shared story, after story, after story about the experiences they had interviewing their veterans.

One of our students spoke to us about the veteran that she interviewed.  He was an extremely nice man with a wonderful sense of humor.  She shared some of the stories he had, one of which was a highlighted story shown at the big event.  When this veteran found out that this student loved band and music he ran and got her a very antique clarinet that once had been his.  He gave it to the student because he said that he dreamed it would be played again, yet he was too old to play it.  This was a heartwarming story.  

Two weeks after our veterans project, this american hero and kind human, passed away.  His family contacted us and told us how thankful they were for us to preserve all of his stories on DVD and give them to the family.  They said every day for the past couple weeks, their father, the veteran we interviewed would speak about his experience with our student and how much it meant to him.







That is powerful!!!  These experiences can happen more often!!!  That is learning from about 20 different angles!!!   It can be done.  I saw it with my own two eyes.  This is only one of the examples of these types of projects that we had this past year.  I plan to share the rest in upcoming blog posts.

Do you think our students will remember these experiences in 10 years?  I do.
Do you think these experiences made these students better, more educated citizens?  I do. 

Please, for the sake of the community, for the sake of the students, consider doing projects like this that provide a deep, authentic, relevant, hands-on education for our students while making a positive impact on the community and other people.











Communities at Oshkosh North High School

For more information, please:
Follow me on Twitter:  @schink10
Email me:  oliver.schinkten@oshkosh.k12.wi.us
Check out our Facebook Page:   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Communities-at-Oshkosh-North/140437179424843

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Permission To Pursue A Dream

"The only thing that got in the way of my learning, was my education" - Albert Einstein





In the middle of the 2011-2012 school year, three other teachers and I sat before a group of administrators and school board members.  We were passionate about the fact that changes were needed in education, and now we had to explain our vision.


We explained our frustrations with the compartmentalized classes, in which students seemed to think literacy was done in "literacy class" but nowhere else.  Science was done in "science class", but nowhere else, and so on.  This was getting frustrating because it was a very false interpretation of the world.


We explained our frustrations with the lack of engagement that students had at school.  The majority of students seemed to dislike school.


We explained the need for relevant learning experiences and authentic audiences to review student work and give feedback.

We discussed the need to teach more than just the content, but to also teach 21st century skills such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication.  The need to teach soft skills such as the handshake, eye-contact, and effective listening skills.

Thankfully, the administration and the school board were behind us.  They granted us the opportunity to begin a pilot program with 75 students in which they would be with us for a 3-hour block.  The students receive science, literacy, social studies, and leadership credits while with us.  We developed themes such as War, Sustainability, Elections, and the Human Body that students would engage in true interdisciplinary learning.  We gave the students autonomy within the projects.  We helped students to learn in a project-based model in which the projects were done within the community, with community partners, with the intention of improving the community.




The final results were astounding, in my opinion.  This was the future.  I really, really, really believe that.  I saw students learn concepts that I believe they will remember for a lifetime, instead of facts that they will remember until they take a standardized test or possibly a couple weeks beyond that.  Not only did these students learn the content, however, they also learned a plethora of 21st century skills.  Each student was required to give a TED-like talk at the end of the year and it was obvious that most of these students had made tremendous strides.  The students improved their leadership skills, their communication skills, their soft skills, they became better critical thinkers, they became for creative, they got better at collaborating with other people besides their friends.  Most importantly, these students became empowered.  They realized the ability that they had (as 9th and 10th grade students) to have a positive impact on their community.  Some of the projects they pulled off were amazing.  My goal is to discuss some of these projects in my future blog posts.  I highly recommend you try this method out.  When you see the engagement, the passion, the deep learning, and the altruism, I have a feeling you will never go back to traditional teaching again.




Oliver Schinkten
Communities at Oshkosh North High School - http://goo.gl/LeQ8Z
Twitter:  @schink10

Please give feedback and suggestions.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Please come visit!  Check it out for yourself!

Monday, June 17, 2013

What are you teaching? Why?

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it"
          - George Bernard Shaw





I have discussed my frustrations with the overflow of content being taught in schools and the lack of 21st century skills, or life skills, being taught in my Learn On blog:  http://schinkten.blogspot.com/

This got me to thinking.......What do I want my students or my kids to learn in school?  Why?

After thinking about this for a long time, I have decided that these are the things that I believe that students should be learning at school:

1.  The ability to Learn.  I cannot emphasize enough how much I think that students need to "learn how to learn".  This always reminds me of the famous saying, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime". In education, way too many classrooms emphasize the obsessive cramming of content information (partially due to ridiculous standards and benchmarks).  Why?  Quiz these students 3-months later.  1 year later.  5 years later.  They will not remember any of these facts.  Why not teach them "How to find these answers".  Then, in 3-months, 1-year, or 5 years later, when they have forgotten all of the facts, they can utilize the "process" of learning and look up the answers.  Way too often we assume that everyone knows how to do this, which I believe is because most teachers are good at this.  In my experience, most students are terrible at this.  If you teach them this, however, they improve VERY quickly.  What a great skill to have.  Then, when they are older and ready to learn specific content, in any area, they will be able to

                                                                                                          
                                                   



2.  Enthusiasm and Passion - Without this, I am not sure anything else matters.  This is like spending thousands of dollars fixing up a car and adding all the best parts, only to realize you have no money for gasoline and are unable to drive the car.  You are not going anywhere.  From a logic perspective I considered rating this #1, but I think that learning how to learn may be more important, even if we have to trick students into doing it.  What percentage of the students in your classroom are truly excited to learn and show up, listen, participate, and work hard simply because they are passionate about the topic or enthusiastic about learning?  If you subtract the % that do not care, the % that perform well because they were programmed that they need good grades in order to succeed in life, the % that do well because they listen to their parents who tell them to work hard, and the % that are just respectful and do it because the teacher (an adult) told them to, I am not sure you are left with many students.  I believe that we all need to take a deep breath, take a big step back, and figure out how to motivate these students to become more enthusiastic and passionate.  You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.                        
                          




3.  Altruism and Empathy - I want students to understand how they fit into to the "big picture" and understand that their actions impact everything around them.  I would love for students to "want" to cure diseases, help those with diseases, desire to end world hunger, help preserve the earth, innovate in the area of sustainability, recycle, respect thy neighbor, open doors for others, help someone pick something up if they drop it, donate to charity, etc.....  This gives students PURPOSE!!!!  Which Daniel Pink explains is one of the main intrinsic motivators.  I do not understand why we do not teach these skills more in school, or use our "learning time" to do more about this.  Why do we keep making little Styrofoam models, packets of worksheets, and signs we throw away, when there are millions of important issues out there to be solved.  Get involved!  Get the students involved.  Solve them!!!!  Please!

                                             



4.  Concepts Crucial to Life - I do think that content is important, but not they way that we teach it.  For example, I do think that it is important to understand how plants survive and thrive.  We need to know that they need water, light, proper amounts of carbon dioxide, nutrients, etc...  I think it is important to understand these concepts so that our future generations understand how to garden for food, grow plants to support birds & butterflies, realize why preserving our forests and trees is so important.  I DO NOT think that it is important that we progress them through the necessary steps to understand the Calvin Cycle, Photosytem II, the chemical composition of Adenosine Triphosphate, etc...  If they want to know this or decide to go into a career which involves this, they will be able to learn it at that time when they are more mature, determined and ready to learn this.  In a perfect world, however, they will be excellent at learning.



5.  A realistic and real-life perspective of what is to come - Instead of selling every student in class the "false dream" that if they go to college they will be wonderfully successful people, we should teach them what life is really like.  College degrees have become so much less valuable.  A college degree used to guarantee you a job, but now this is far from true.  In this grandiose "You Must Go To College" campaign, we have essentially sent the message that every job in which you do not go to college is useless.  Mechanics, custodians, factory workers, secretaries, stay at home moms, customer service workers......are they useless?  Far from it....but when do we start educating them from kindergarten on instead of preparing them for college starting at age 4, when they may never end up there.  When do we start requiring students to understand the wide range of possibilities, what bills and payments are like, how to fix up their car or home, how to care for plants, pets, children, etc....


So.......................................

So what is the answer to this?  I do not claim to have all of the answers.  I have been implementing some strategies that I believe strongly are steps in the right direction.  In co-founding and working in a PBL, interdisciplinary, hands-on, real-life, altruistic program titled Communities (http://on.fb.me/11Gshck) , I have had the unique experience to see this begin to work.  The results have been amazing and as soon as my own kids are old enough, this is the education I want them to get.  Many people are still skeptical and doubt this can be done, but as I quoted in the beginning of this blog:  "People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it".


In the meantime I have two challenges for anyone:

1.  Start implementing totally autonomous Com-Passion Based Learning in your classroom for 20% of the time.  Read more about this: http://bit.ly/12DGrRu   Many people ask, how can I afford to give up 20% of my class time with the students.  My reply is; How can you afford not to?

2.  I challenge any professor, teacher, expert to a game of trivial pursuit in which I get to use the internet and you do not.  If you really believe that facts, facts, facts, facts, facts is what we should be teaching our children, then show me how good you are at it.  I hope I win, because I will donate my money to a good cause.

Please respond with any feedback, questions, suggestions, concerns.  I am a very open-minded person and I am not afraid to change my mind or opinion on something.  Maybe there is something I am missing......but maybe there is not.  Let's talk!

Keep in touch!

Oliver Schinkten
oliver.schinkten@oshkosh.k12.wi.us

Twitter:  @schink10




Thursday, June 13, 2013

Com-Passion Based Learning - The Next Step



"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"


Education needs to change!!! We are no longer in the Industrial Age. Our students are disengaged and unconcerned.  The format of our schools and the content which our teachers are required to teach are becoming irrelevant and ineffective.  Students should be going to schools to learn; better yet, to learn how to learn.  Students should not be going to school to memorize a plethora of facts which help make them good Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit players.  The internet has changed that game.  Anyone with a computer and an internet connection has access to any necessary facts.  We need our students to learn how to find these facts, what to do with them, how to think critically and creatively, and to develop enthusiasm to take their learning to the next level.  Please watch or read anything by Sir Kenneth Robinson for inspiration.



Many new innovative methodologies have surfaced in recent years, mainly due to a grassroots movement of educators and community members who are passionate about improving education.  One of my favorite is the concept of 20-Time and Genius Hour which are forms of PASSION-BASED learning.  You can find many great examples and facts about this type of learning through social media.  Innovators such as +Joy Kirr , +A.J. Juliani , +Denise Krebs , +K Petty , +Angela Maiers, +Hugh McDonald+Kevin Brookhouser+Gallit Zvi and others provide great insight into this concept.  I highly suggest following and reading about these educators as they have a LOT to offer.  The concept of passion-based learning is awesome!  Students are allowed to learn about things that they are enthusiastic and passionate about.  Through this develops an unseen level of enthusiasm and the ability to teach interdisciplinary concepts, 21st Century skills, and more.  Unless we get the attention, motivation, and enthusiasm of our students back, our education system isn't educating anyone.

I would like to introduce you to a new concept:  Com-Passion based learning.  The philosophy is extremely similar to passion-based learning, in which students are allowed approximately 20% of their class time to innovate, create, investigate, and research something they are passionate about.  The goal is to provide a structured environment in order to give students autonomy.  The one difference with Com-Passion based learning is that students are expected to find something they are passionate about, but turn in into a project that "BENEFITS THEIR COMMUNITY".  This is where the "Com" comes in.  Examples of this could include a partnership with the Humane Society or Zoo for someone passionate about animals.  It could be a fundraiser or event created by someone passionate about a certain disorder, disease or social issue.  The sky is the limit.  Any topic can be selected, however, the goal is to create some way of improving the community through this topic.  The community could be defined as the "School Community", the "Local Community", the "State Community", the "National Community", or the "Global Community".  There are many ways that students can "benefit" the community, through projects related to awareness, service-learning, fund-raisin, research, volunteering, innovating, or providing opportunities for children or other groups.

+Daniel Pink, in Drive, one of the most inspiring book ever, explains how everyone is motivated by three intrinsic factors:  Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Passion-based learning, including 20-time and Genius Hour are wonderful opportunities to give students autonomy and eventually mastery of their topic (which help create enthusiasm and confidence).   I think that one could justify that purpose is also implemented in these forms of learning (because it is such a wonderful opportunity to teach real-life 21st Century skills).  I would like to challenge anyone and everyone to take the purpose to the next level, by incorporating it more into these projects.

This year three other teachers and I were granted the opportunity to start a pilot program at Oshkosh North High School.  We all held the belief that we wanted to provide more authentic, real-life, relevant learning conditions for our students while still incorporating content and rigor.  The first year was a success, in my opinion, and it will only get better.  We were able to teach so many 21st century skills and make the content truly interdisciplinary.  It was awesome!  The most inspiring part, however, was the feelings of empowerment, benevolence, altruism, and purpose that our students were able to develop.  Each project that we did was intended to help the community in some way.  Each project presented a difficult learning adventure for our students, which created a lot of frustration.  At the end of the projects, however, when the final product came together, the sense of accomplishment and pride in the students was one that I have never seen before in the world of education.  The experience was life-changing.

My intention is blog about this topic.  I want to share some of the specific stories and projects that we did.  I want to share some of the activities that worked, some of the things that didn't work, and some of the obstacles that we overcame.  I want to provide ideas and support for anyone interested in implementing this at any level.  I WANT TO HELP!!!  I strongly believe that education need to change, and I want to work with others that hold this belief.  I am excited to learn from others who are trying innovative projects and activities in their classrooms.  I am a lifelong learner with an open mind and I want to improve each and every day!

Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, ideas, etc....  Also check out our program.  We were allowed to have 75 students at the 9th and 10th grade level.  Students would be with us for a 3-hour block and receive science, literacy, social studies, and leadership credits.  Students had to apply, and in the end we had a lottery to select the students who got in.  The diversity in our program was awesome!  We had people in the program because they wanted more opportunities to go above and beyond what they are able to in traditional education but we also had students who were in the program because they were doing poorly in traditional education and wanted to learn differently.  After our successful year, we were given permission to expand to the 11th and 12th grades for next year.

Communities at Oshkosh North High School:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Communities-at-Oshkosh-North/140437179424843
School Blog - http://communitiesonhs.blogspot.com/
Twitter - @communitiesonhs

Keep in touch!!!

Oliver Schinkten
@schink10