At the end of last school year, we couldn’t wait to plan our schedule for our senior year. With some of our favorite subjects, English Literature, Geoscience, U.S. Government and Politics (during an election year!), and Spanish on our schedules, it was guaranteed to be an incredible year. In addition to this, we would have three elective choices, one of which would definitely be used to take Theatre Studies. We had been waiting to take the Theatre Studies course since sophomore year, and finally, we would be able to experience it. At the beginning of junior year, we joined Drama Club and realized a passion for performing and were so excited to learn more about theatre. You can imagine our faces when our counselor told us that we had been only two people out of the several who had signed up for the course. The course wouldn’t run, and we wouldn’t be able to take the course we had been waiting so long to take.
After our initial disappointment, we remembered that a friend in Drama Club had done an independent study (a course where a student studies independently with a teacher and may create their own curriculum for a course) with the school’s band director. So, we approached the teacher of the Theatre Studies course to do an independent study. After writing a proposal and coming up with a schedule and curriculum for the course, we ended up with a Theatre and Poetry Studies course where we would be studying Theatre for the first half of the year and poetry (a love we shared with the Theatre Studies teacher) for the second half of the year. It was the perfect course, combining some of our deepest passions into one class.
After choosing Spanish and our new course for our electives, we still had one more space on our schedule for a new course. After creating our first course, we could feel the fireworks exploding in our brains. We realized the unique opportunity we had.
In 7th grade, we were introduced to a class called Creative Expressions. It had been created by the teacher who taught it, and was focused around design thinking, what it means to be a Genius, writing, and making connections. This class had set our souls on fire and made us think differently about the world and ourselves. (You can learn more about this class and what this teacher is currently working on at his blog, Only Connect).
During our time in highschool, our Creative Expressions teacher moved up to the high school to teach a gifted English class. With one more open space on our schedule, we realized this would be the perfect opportunity to do another independent study, this time, with our Creative Expressions teacher.
We loved Creative Expressions, and with this teacher, shared a love for poetry, writing, design, being creative, and the power education can have to make learning and living a more enriching experience. So, we proposed the idea of doing an independent study with this teacher and met over the summer to brainstorm a new class. After 45 minutes at the local bookstore, this drawing was the result:
(Notice Mr. H’s Genius/madman scribbling skills)
We ended up creating a class that combined some of our shared passions, materializing into a design challenge. We would approach American public education as a design challenge and try to redesign a system of education to better fit the needs of the 21st century learner. We identified Curiosity (one of the twelve qualities of genius listed in Thomas Armstrong’s book Awakening Genius in the Classroom) as an important component and aspect of learning. We determined that this was an important quality for learning that is often not included in education, and, as a result, we are now trying to determine how a system of education can include Curiosity to better meet the needs of the 21st century learner.