Question: How does a school that hasn’t opened yet let students shadow school and learn what it will be like?
Answer: Waterloo Experience Days!
Through the winter we are holding Experience Days where students can experience a half day of school (one class), not as an observer, but as a student. Core to Waterloo is that learning is doing, so the best way to learn about Waterloo is not to watch others, but to do it. Last week we were at our school library (aka the award-winning Austin Public Library…) putting together a Gen Z platform proposal to shape future state policy with their generation’s perspectives in mind. This week we were on the Eastside at Christ Church of Austin. After watching Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963 March on Washington speech, we combined a lesson on imagery and concrete language with writing our own vision casting ‘Dream for Austin’ drawing on two Waterloo Core Values, Belonging and Restoration. Next week, Dr. Swan will have us delving into the world of chemistry and it requires we wear close-toed shoes.
One thing the experience days highlight is how much learning (and creating) you can do in two-and-half hours—and how fast that time can go by! When we can focus on one subject and control the distractions and activities, one afternoon of class can be packed with…learning. No homework, procrastination, false starts because I checked my instagram and cleaned my room before starting, just concrete, personalized hands-on learning.
Another highlight is that where you learn is best wide open. Yes, we will have a campus that is our ‘starting point’. But to help students grasp that their lives aren’t just in a ’preparatory’ stage but are actually meant to be lived meaningfully now, we will include experiences throughout the city, discovering and creating meaningful work and relationships as we learn. ’The city is the school’ is to help students discover their flourishing is not found in checking their identity at the start of the school or work day and then returning to it worn out and tired, but be bringing all of themselves into their school, their work, and their lives.
And finally, the modes of learning are many. Sometimes it is a collaborative project where each person takes a role that matches their strengths. At another time, they are individual projects where each person is invited and challenged to develop their strengths and weaknesses and share them with the whole. Sometimes it is learning from someone how something works. At another, it’s trying to figure something out like Sherlock Holmes. And always, a key part of learning is presenting your work at the end and reflecting in discussion afterwards about the good and the bad of the process. Students and teachers are stakeholders in learning, helping each other grow. It would be a lot to fit into 50 minutes or stitch together over multiple days. With the longer class time, we actually have time to do it all.
Details about the upcoming Experience Days and Information Meetings can be found here.