Imagine That: A School of Possibilities
One of my favorite Bloggers, Maria Popova aka Brainpickers, shared a project called Museum of Possibilities http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/02/03/the-museum-of-possibilities/
To prevent this disconnect when inaugurating its Quartier des Spectacles, the city of Montréal came up with an exceptionally inspired solution: The Museum of Possibilities — a wonderful daylong pop-up installation inviting visitors to share their dreams and visions for the future of the space by jotting down their ideas on pieces of paper and attaching them to colorful balloons.
Others could then vote on the ideas with stickers, collectively choosing the best visions for their shared space.
I immediately thought, “Wow, what a great idea for visioning the future of an individual school or school district.” Ever since I heard about how the Chucagh School District revamped their educational system, I have been intrigued by the idea of having the local communities develop their own educational systems and curriculum in a way that meets their community and student needs.
Chugach School District in south central Alaska transformed their district from a failure to a success by engaging the community, asking fundamental questions, and using real data to understand where resources needed to go. In 1994, the district was failing by almost all measures: staff turnover exceeded 50%; students scored lowest in the state of Alaska on California Achievement Tests; business leaders complained that graduates lacked basic skills; and only one student in 26 years had gone on to college. Through a series of town hall meetings, the district determined that the traditional industrial model of education to prepare students for college was not relevant to their community. The school board and district leaders proposed radical changes to suit the remote community’s needs. In 2001, the district was the smallest organization ever to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards for performance excellence in education.
An event such as The Museum of Possibilities or in this case, The School of Possibilities, could kick off a visioning of a new school (newly formed or older one serious about school reform) – one driven by all stakeholders –> school personnel, students, parents, local business, and other interested community members. This event would work only if the school “officials” were willing to seriously consider all ideas, to begin or re-organize the school basically from scratch driven by the ideas generated at this and follow-up events.
Some of the key steps for this event would include:
- An invitation or call out for anyone and everyone interested in developing the school environment, curriculum, and instructional practices is sent out via all types of social media outlets.
- It is planned as a celebration of learning with the planners locating an outdoor venue to set up the balloons, and arrange for some live music, possibly dance, and some food.
- During the event, everyone, all ages, are encouraged to jot down and post their ideas on the balloons, and vote for their favorites. Those who have difficulty reading and writing for any reason are be given assistance.
- The results are published via paper and online sources, and widely disseminated with a further request for feedback.
Guidelines would need to include:
- Understand and embrace crowdsourcing as a viable or even required method for visioning the future of the school.
- Enter with and accept the ideas of others with an open mind, attitude, and heart.
- Let go of expectations what the outcomes might be.
- Be willing to entertain and implement any popular ideas.
What are the underlying messages that such an event would give?
- Visioning the future of the school is a celebration – something that should be embraced and enjoyed.
- The power for the school and its curriculum is under local control.
- All stakeholders and interested people’ are important.
- It really does take a community to educate a child and that the community is invited and encouraged to do so.
This would only be a start – but what a great way to jump start authentic and engaging educational change for that school community.