At 11, Katrina is beginning to take greater and greater responsibility for her learning. In partnership with Sam, her advocate for nine years, her community cohort, and her parents, she has developed strong habits for planning, time-management and reflection. This is clear in her competency dashboard, a digital tool that helps document evidence towards the system’s learning framework and her advocate network’s specific goals. As a result of her recent competency review, she shifted to a new level of independence. As part of demonstrating she was ready for a greater level of autonomy, she changed from daily check-ins to weekly check-ins with her learner advocate to ensure she remains on track with her learning goals.
Katrina still spends the bulk of her time at the learning center, following a fairly consistent schedule. However, some of the structure has changed. Unlike her early elementary years when she traveled with the same group of peers, Katrina works across different spaces and with a variety of co-learners. She has an office space that serves as her home base, then moves from labs, to design workshop spaces, to seminar rooms to engage with the best tools and people to meet her goals.
There is a flat fee for basic services at the learning center, but now her parents allocate her education dollars to various providers that work at the center. (Paid providers are noted with a $ within her schedule).
Katrina often takes advantage of the yoga classes offered each morning at the center. For 30 minutes, she takes the time and space to practice focus and balance, increasing her physical strength and emotional self-control. Although she plays sports, she has discovered that if she consistently stretches she has fewer injuries than she did before adding this routine to her morning. She also finds this time energizing, enabling her to prepare for her day.
Although Katrina may spend some time on a project or working on online curriculum early in the morning, her day formally begins with morning meeting. Matching the cognitive research about the importance of sleep for adolescents, Katrina and her family chose a schedule that allows Katrina an appropriate amount of sleep for her age. The morning meeting has been a staple in Katrina’s learning and she continues to love the time to connect with peers and others in the community. The morning meeting has taken on new dimensions as Katrina has grown, and now includes learners of multiple ages sharing their challenges, providing information for others’ work, and following up on tasks to ensure the learning center continues to meet the needs of the learners they serve.
Katrina has been working with a learning accountability team for the past year. This self-selected and self-facilitated triad of Katrina (11), Kate (11), and Andre (12) meets every other day to verbalize their goals to each other, review their schedules and tackle any specific learning challenges. It is also during this time that they review the pop up learning opportunities to see if there are good matches for their goals. These meetings have a basic template to follow and record notes and can be accessed by each of the student’s learner advocates.
With support from a math coach, Katrina uses Khan Academy as the core of her program to meet the academic qualifications in math. Sam has been able to access the data from Khan to integrate into Katrina’s competency dashboard, documenting progress and highlighting that Katrina’s ability is far beyond a typical sixth grader.As a result, Katrina’s math coach recently added Illuminations to her playlist. This allows Katrina to engage in online math projects with other students, giving her the chance to integrate math subjects as she transfers her understanding to different real world problems. Illuminations is a common learning provider used with students beginning to show readiness for deeper project work. It serves as a strong model for learners in how to choose projects, organize projects, document learning in projects and find experts to fill in content understanding.
Snack/lunch time is a good example of how Katrina's role has changed within her community of learners. During this time she helps with the younger students, guiding them in pro-social interactions. She remembers how she needed this support as well.
Twice a week, Katrina meets formally with her writing group. It is led by a parent who homeschools her own children and uses the learning center as an authorized provider to support other learners in writing, which is her passion and her career. They use the home study course of Brave Writer in which Katrina has been able to explore lots of different types of writing and has found a passion for nonfiction. As part of the writing group, they critique each other’s work, much like a professional writing group. Based on feedback from the group and more detailed feedback from her writing teacher, Katrina uses the other three days a week to write or chose into more focused lessons with an online provider to support grammar, usage, and content development structures.
The Pop Up Learning Experiences change frequently. Offered twice a week at the learning center, these are learning providers that offer short, new experiences for free. Typically the providers are completing an authorization process to add their experience to the rich menu of opportunities already available for students. The learning center has elected to serve as an authorization base to support new providers and includes learners in providing feedback to the providers, while using the learning experiences as a chance to add specific content to a goal they may have or explore new topics.Today’s Pop Up is focused on a biology lab and matches Katrina’s goals based on the competencies they identified in their pitch. Facilitated by a collaborative of teachers that offer a project-based science curriculum using environmental challenges, this Pop Up is testing students’ interests in exploring DNA forensics and genetics. Katrina’s science goals are focused on the scientific method, so this is a perfect opportunity to build evidence towards her goals.If not participating in a Pop Up, Katrina would spend this time focused on her science or social studies content.
Parks and Recreation heads up the community sports program and a variety of other youth activities. Katrina has played on a number of teams, but now uses this time to train in the martial arts as part of her wellness plan. Since the time she was four, Katrina has struggled with self-regulation. Her schedule, which takes advantage of lots of daily choices, is a celebration of the progress she has made. Early in her learning, Sam connected the family to a behavioral pediatrician. The doctor was able to support Katrina’s challenges with self-regulation through various therapies, which didn’t require medication, including physical activities that had rhythm and structure.
With ten other students, Katrina catches a bus to the senior supported living center a few miles out of town. This is the first year she committed to a long-term project focused on nutrition. This project included a basic course in nutrition, a stint with a community garden, cooking classes (including the chemistry of cooking for students prepared for higher level content) and now the senior center kitchen. Sam thought this would be a good match for Katrina. Not only does it give her exposure to a lot of different resources in the community, as well as many different types of projects, but it serves to meet science academic qualifications, an area where Katrina is showing great aptitude and interest already. Sam is working hard to provide Katrina with experiences that will begin to transition her from the learning center to relevant, community-based projects.
Karin Stayton, Boulder Housing Partners