Education is nearly the same as it was 100 years ago. The 2015 film, Most Likely to Succeed, explores the history of organized school as we know it today and how while the world has changed, the educational structure as we know it, really hasn’t.
Tony Wagner, senior research fellow at learning policy institute at Harvard University, argues that knowledge is no longer a rare commodity. Children as young as three can simply ask and get their answer using technology. We have to be innovative in education to start preparing students for an unknown world of unknown jobs.
Steve Revington, designer of the authentic learning model, states, “Education has but one main purpose – to prepare students for the real world. To do that we need to get ‘real’ in education. It’s imperative that we provide ongoing, authentic learning opportunities to our students.”
As the only International Baccalaureate School on island to offer three programmes; Primary Years Programme (Grades PK-5), Middle Years Programme (Grades 6-10) and Diploma Programme (Grades 11-12) with full integrity, Le Jardin Academy has embraced innovation and is taking steps to create a program that emphasizes authentic interdisciplinary learning, conceptual understanding and skills, and empowering student agency and self-efficacy through choice, voice, and ownership of their learning.
“It looks different depending on the age of the children,” explains Leah Magaña, Director of Learning. “In Pre-K, four-year-olds are exploring water scarcity. They measure the water wasted under the hand-washing sinks with clear plastic bins, they create public service announcements using green screen for their audience, the Junior Kindergarteners, and they measure the water wasted again at the end of the unit to evaluate the impact they had on reducing water use.”
In Grade 1 the students are solving problems around local food and the farming industry. And in Grade 2 they’re exploring the importance of innovation toward ocean conservation.
By the time these children reach Grade 5, they’re choosing their own local and global issues to explore, applying 21st century skills (the IB calls them approaches to learning) as students independently meet with community partners, innovate, design, propose bills for real audiences, like the city council, and share their learning.
Design thinking is a core component of the LJA programmes and in Grade 6, kids are exploring consumerism and packaging through the lenses of design, economics and environmentalism. In Grade 7, kids are coding to build websites for real clients, in Grade 8 they’re working as interior designers, again, for real clients.
In high school, students are wrestling with complex world issues such as immigration, climate change, cultural differences and the concept of identity, here in Hawaii and abroad. They’re also engaging in reflection, metacognition and learning skills like how to communicate their complex feelings.
Christina Hoe, Associate Director of Experiential learning and longtime teacher at LJA explains that “at Le Jardin, we believe in growing good humans who have the skills, knowledge, and strength of character to create a more peaceful and sustainable world.”
Throughout high school, students engage in independent projects in which they inquire into issues of their choice through both disciplinary and interdisciplinary lens. And by the time students reach Grade 11 and Grade 12, they have developed college-level skills in the way of thinking, research, communication, social and self-management. At this point, they are taking courses for college credit and writing a 4,000-word essay on topics like the rise of Veganism in Hawaii, the impact of sports stadiums on local economies, the main contributing factors to the resurgence of Hawaiian pride and cultural identity beginning in the 1960s? Just to name a few.
“Gone is the world of the passive learner,” says Magaña. “With students’ direct access to the world and its issues, kids want to be part of the conversation. Le Jardin Academy’s curriculum is built around this understanding. Give students choice, voice, and ownership to follow their passions, to inquire into local and global problems. Let them wrestle with the interdisciplinary complexities that exist in the world and through this type of inquiry, deeper, more rigorous learning will take place.”
The world hasn’t really changed, but creativity has become a necessary commodity. In the past ten years especially, LJA has become more flexible, adaptive, creative, and more international. Come see it all in action at Le Jardin Academy’s Open House on November 16 from 9 a.m. to noon or on a private tour during a typical school day!