Elliot Washor of BPL Reflects on Student ExhibitionsOctober 9th, 2018
Elliot Washor, Co-Founder of Big Picture Learning, visited New Harmony during Quarter 1 Student Exhibitions. Here are some of his thoughts, observations, and praises throughout the week.
“I had a great time at New Harmony High going to two full days of student exhibitions. It was a celebration of learning for staff, parents and students. For many, it was their first time seeing a school wide expression of individual student voice and choice through an assessment process where students owned the content and objects. Students demonstrated who they were and how they want to continue to get better at their interests. It felt real gratifying to once again see another school launch through the actions and voices of students. Parents who were skeptical were now bought-in. Staff who never had the opportunity before experienced students owning their learning as their role of teacher was transformed to a BPL advisor. The school culture became both more fluid and solid at the same time because every student was showing their differences while participating in the same format. It was a pleasure to be part of the panels and debriefs. How hard is it to do this schoolwide? Districtwide? How come you can walk into a BPL school and know you are in a BPL school? So much of what I heard from staff was about a new belief in students that they didn’t and couldn’t have unless they went through something like this and once through it they were changed.
Here’s a few quotes from students that I’m highlighting among so many highlights.
“Everyone’s boss is the bank.” Sophia was discussing her self-portrait that had a price tag around her neck. She was planning the start of her business as an artist and figuring out how to make ends meets without accruing debt.
“It’s not whether or not you fall but it’s whether or not you get back up after you fall.” At 14, Vera is a sponsored rock-climber. Her insights into what she wants to do to pay the bills to climb were so insightful and well-thought out that most adults have never had a life plan like she does. Lots of family support here from parents who were not rock climbers.
“They want me to do what I want to do.” Lisbeth was talking about her parents here and the support they give her unconditionally.
“Am I old enough to be emotionally intelligent?” Ania was challenging herself and everyone else in the room around their language and ideas.
There were so many interests and choices put on display from Jack – geospatial engineer to Emily – Happiness culminating in a video she produced to Zoey a music producer and Izzy – working at the zoo, roller skating and swimming both of which she is quite proficient at and Kahi a graphic illustrator who as Danique will attest to has so much talent.
A few interesting observations for me:
- Students had photos of their notebooks in their PowerPoints that were both text and sketches. You know I had some good things to say about that.
- Every student I questioned had their interests supported by their families before coming to New Harmony. Supportive parents are a big deal and they cut across constructs of race, class and gender.