Two years ago, a group of teachers asked the following questions . . .
- How can teachers address The Prairie School’s commitment to sustainability, 21st century learning, the 7 A’s, and its mission to create students who are leaders of their own lives?
- How can Prairie School implement interdivisional Education for Sustainability into its existing curriculum?
- How can encourage students, across all divisions, to develop new solutions to complex social, economic and environmental problems facing the world?
The result was a program called C.L.A.S.S., which focused on character and leadership development and the importance of accountability as students prepared to make a contribution toward sustainability through service. Students from grades 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 have participated, bringing a diversity of students into a C.L.A.S.S. that wasn’t a “class”–and that wasn’t in a “classroom.”
The experience is structured around workshops (called “Raft Days”) spread over the course of the school year. The first year, participants formed 4 multi-age rafts that committed themselves to full participation, inclusivity, searching, role-modeling, contribution, and co-designing of the experience throughout the year. During the second year, new members joined the ranks, and many veterans decided to return–thereby forming small communities, or rafts.
Since its inception, C.L.A.S.S. has, following student interest and direction, explored issues surrounding cultural sustainability, social responsibility, and universal human rights. They have come to commit themselves, ultimately, to addressing poverty, hunger, and illiteracy, here in Racine while engaging others from around the world in our conversation.
The C.L.A.S.S. experience centers around constructing and deepening our knowledge of the topics students have selected through a transdisciplinary approach which includes reading, writing, poetry, research, reflection, discussion, negotiation, art, music, video, blogging–and then, only then, responding to their learning with action.
Many projects have been created by the students and stem from their understanding of their world. As teachers, we have tried to step back, guide them, and clear the way for projects to happen. As students reflect on their progress–the successes and failures–they have chosen to reshape the next steps.
Along the way, they also construct and deepen their knowledge about themselves and others.
C.L.A.S.S. will continue to serve the Prairie community in new ways each year, drawing upon student leadership and initiative from each year and inviting fresh minds and hearts to experience this “C.L.A.S.S. that’s not a class”. We will continue to share updates and progress as the group begins to meet.