Each child in America is beautifully unique … so why is our education system designed to evaluate and teach them all the same?
That is the question Indi-Ed Founder and Lead Teacher Christine Laurenzi addressed in her TEDx talk last fall, and is a big piece of what she has set out to change through her Tampa Bay-area school.
“Schools as we know them today are not only destroying our students’ most inherent desires to learn through socializing and play, but they’re also stripping them of their abilities to think for themselves and to convey any pride in who they are as an individual,” she said in her talk.
“We have millions of children on medication so that they can simply assimilate to school. That doesn’t mean that our kids are broken, it simply means that there is something very wrong with our current idea of schooling.”
The mission of Laurenzi’s school is to link learning with the real world. She spoke about a handful of her own students who – led by their own passions – consulted with experts to complete unique projects individualized to them.
- Kai had a love of astronomy. He joined the local astronomy club, met NASA employees, use telescopes bigger than he was, and actually sat in on a college class.
- Brock excelled in science and math and wasn’t being challenged in the classroom. He met with the local police department who shared some of the robotics they use in their line of work. Brock met with other professionals who taught him CAD and programming, and he was able to use a 3D printer to create a robot.
- Sammie, Kayla, and Alya wanted to learn more about Marine science, a passion of theirs. They met with scientists and other professionals in the field and chose to design an informative website focused on the evolution of animals and the destruction of habitat, and also created a documentary speaking to releasing animals from captivity.
The crazy thing about these projects? It wasn’t difficult to make them happen.
“These children chose their passion, had multiple experiences with experts, reflected on their own learning and showcased it to their friends and family all in under 15 hours,” said Laurenzi. “Imagine if this process was repeated and expanded upon over 15,000 hours.”
Keys to Personalized Learning
Just as student learning can be personalized, so can the teaching, but Laurenzi believes it should be centered around these three things:
1. Having A Choice
When kids have the opportunity to choose their own path, they own their path.
“(It) not only propels their learning further, but it allows them to feel a connection within themselves,” said Laurenzi. “A pride that will continue those positive experiences for the rest of their lives.”
2. Making it Applicable
Engaging in something that will have a real impact on the world changes the game for these kids. No longer are they being put through the paces to please a teacher or a system; instead they are trying to make a difference.
“Kids are willing to take on challenges when they understand that what they’re learning about applies in the real world,” said Laurenzi. “Connecting information is what creates understanding and a skilled educator makes a world of difference because they can see how to make those pieces come together.”
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3. Acknowledging Strengths
Every single child had a core set of strengths – it’s just a matter of finding and celebrating them.
“(It’s) the most important in my opinion,” said Laurenzi, “the understanding that we can all soar when our strengths are acknowledged and when we know that we have someone who supports, encourages, and cares for us. I believe that connecting to ourselves, each other, and our world, are some pretty decent connections to start establishing.”
Laurenzi is completing her second successful school year at Indi-Ed as she continues to push for a new way of learning.
You can read more about her school at individualizededu.com.