THE WORLD IS CHANGING
The world is changing! While this has always been true, the rate of change is accelerating at an increasing pace. In fact, in the last decade there has been a seismic shift so enormous that it is sometimes difficult to remember.
Here is short list of things-that-weren’t in 2006:
Licensed commercial drone operators
Commercially available 3D printing
Social media managers
Today’s middle school students will be entering the workforce sometime after 2030. Given all that has changed and evolved recently, how can we presume to know what that future will bring? With that uncertainty in mind, we strive to provide students with opportunities to develop the skills and mindsets to tackle whatever the future throws at them.
At Catalyst Learning Hub, we are are keenly aware of the need to hold traditional classroom/school practices up to the light and carefully examine them. This practice does not mean that we throw out the old wholesale; we value continuity of what works and what is valuable. But we also must ask ourselves “Why?” whenever possible. Why does a certain practice take place in the classroom? When looking at education, it is not enough to say “it has always been this way.” Our kids’ futures are at stake.
How do we blend the traditional with the revolutionary? We start by asking ourselves to look at the purpose of various disciplines and actively focus on their relevance. To that end, we have reorganized and rechristened traditional areas of study to better reflect their purposes. The following areas of study are used in interdisciplinary explorations of many topics throughout the year.
THE HUMAN CONDITION
Like a traditional Humanities class, this study area includes literature and history which has been broadened to include a study of ethics. Students focus on what it means to be a human, at different times, in different places. Using a historical lens helps children to unravel tricky, modern day problems by understanding precedents and earlier models. Literature study exposes students to more rich ways to communicate their understanding. Through these experiences Catalyst learners discover what it means to be a good person and a good citizen today.
Effective communication is one of the most sought after skills of the 21st Century. School must move beyond writing literary analysis essays about novels. Presumably, adults have not written a literary essay recently, but most have almost certainly been called upon to communicate effectively with team members, co-workers, and other stakeholders. Today, communication also comes in the form of more than just written material. There are infographics, tweets, photographs, design, etc. that help to communicate our intentions. Catalyst’s Communications Literacy Toolkit begins with the understanding that everything humans produce has something to say. We know that purpose and audience matter and that specific conventions and techniques are at play. In this class, students learn to value and practice communication in all of its many forms: design, written, spoken, mathematical, visual/artistic.
QUANTITATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
Building on the work of Stanford mathematician Jo Boaler, Catalyst Learning Hub views mathematics as a creative and collaborative endeavor. Students focus on using various math practices to solve problems. This goal means that making sense of problems is paramount. Every student is challenged to develop their ability to model, quantify, and solve problems while recognizing that these skills are actually useful in the real world. We provide the varying levels of mathematics (up to and including geometry, if necessary) as frameworks for student exploration, collaboration, and skill development. All students are appropriately challenged and supported.
Science is a living practice that allows humans to explore and explain natural phenomena. It provides a common language to communicate these ideas. At Catalyst, students develop into scientifically literate citizens who use their understanding of science to make sense of the world around them. They recognize that scientific principles are not relegated to a science lab but have applications across the curriculum and across their lives.
The Catalyst Learning Hub curriculum provides opportunities for children to continue to develop autonomy and agency while focusing on strengthening the skills and attitudes necessary for an unknowable future. Reflection, metacognition, and individual growth, situated in an interdisciplinary context, are hallmarks of our approach.