Peoples’ notions of how teachers spend their Summer “vacations” is likely a lot different from how teachers actually spend Summer break. Let me introduce you to Erin Hartill, a science teacher from Richmond High School in RSU 2. On her second day of “summer vacation,” Erin jumped at the chance to attend the district’s Summer Teacher Institute, designed to provide the opportunity for Erin and her colleagues to attend to their own learning.
For the last year, Erin has participated in her learning community’s year-long focus on Applied Learning, which is working to ensure that students are working their way through a well-defined continuum of learning using their passions to create a path and choose how they will demonstrate their understanding of the learning. With that focus in mind, Erin began the Summer Institute with a critical question of inquiry: how could the current 9-12 science course of study be reorganized to support learner-centered experiences in compelling ways?
Using KnowledgeWorks’ previous professional development on design thinking as a problem-solving model, Erin began by reviewing the district’s Learning Continuum. The Continuum is an online organizational curriculum framework where progressions, measurement topics and learning targets for science are grouped into course-specific categories: Physical Science, Biology and Chemistry. Looking for authentic connections and alignment among the learning targets, Erin worked with colleagues to think differently about the order, rigor and scope of the content. After a few hours of immersion with the task at hand, the results were a prototype of a 3-year Integrated Science progression.
Through the ideate, prototype and test stages, Erin is now looking forward to designing Applied Learning opportunities with her students!
So how is Erin spending her summer vacation? She would tell you she is spending it planning deep and meaningful learning experiences for her 2017-18 students. Just another day at the beach!