Arriving a day early for the NAIS Conference in San Francisco, our team took the opportunity to visit the Brightworks school. Greeted by Founder and Education Architect Gever Tully who wrote the book 50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do, I was immediately struck by the open layout and the sense of freedom and possibility in the school.
Students can access tools to construct prototypes of nearly anything one can imagine. The more dangerous tools are placed higher on the wall, if only to give pause to a student before proceeding to utilize.
We were given a tour by one of the older students who was working on an airplane when we arrived. There are no classrooms, only spaces. No classes nor grade levels, only ‘bands.’ Students gather in spaces to following specific learning arcs and/or their own learning passions and curiosities. No lockers, only cubbies. A stack of “Lord of the Flies” shows that classical literature has a place in every school.
Spotted some familiar sights like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and some unique sites (we don’t have our own school dog yet). I felt right at home once the students brought out the drone. They let me try on the FPV (First Person View) goggles which puts you in the front seat of the aircraft.
My visit to Brightworks was both inspiring and uncomfortable. I’m so glad we had the chance to tour and learn. As someone who grew up (and taught) in fairly traditional Atlanta schools and who currently works in a school that leads in innovation, I had a lot of questions about how certain logistics worked.
Inspired by folks who are trying a different approach to educating children, I left wrestling with the healthy tension between letting curiosity (a natural motivator) drive learning v. a prescribed, strict set of require content (learning outcomes). I think there is a need (and space) for both.
What do you think? When designing a lesson, unit, classroom, school, or any learning environment, what is the best mix/balance of content and curiosity?