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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Beyond the classroom

New high schools are “demolishing the classroom,”, writes Leslie Nguyen-Okwu on OZY.

With a $10 million grant from the XQ: Super Schools Project, New Harmony High in Louisiana will put students on barges to study rising sea levels and coastal preservation.

. . . students will learn in a living, breathing lab on the water and get hands-on experience in studying biology, river ecology and environmental justice, in addition to the usual reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic. “[The students] are out in the world, not in an ivory tower, not clustered behind the fence,” says Elliot Washor, one of the nontraditional education gurus behind New Harmony High.

Laurene Powell Jobs and the Emerson Collective are funding “Super Schools.”  Watch out for fanboys and fads, warns Rick Hess.

Other classroom-busting ideas from the OZY story:

  1. At The Mountain School in rural Vermont, students can go off-grid and spend a semester learning on an organic farm.

  2. Avoid walls entirely and attend an “open classroom” with “squiggly” desk and a mountaintop for speeches, like the Telefonplan School in Stockholm.

  3. The Traveling School lets students learn and adventure in the Galapagos, Guatemala and Botswana.

New American Schools tried this in the ’90s. “It gave rise to school models shaped by faddish enthusiasms,” writes Hess. “The major AIR evaluation found that 21 of 24 models showed no significant impact on learning, and the RAND study of results in scale-up jurisdictions revealed equally uninspiring outcomes.”

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