It's been a summer of fascinating conversations about the future of education - through two Salon events, and continual meetings with parents, students, teachers, and education leaders. We thought we would share a few highlights, as always in the spirit of welcoming ideas and feedback:
Our first salon event, "The Mathematician's Lament," sparked a deep conversation about what really matters in math. Talking with some of the most exceptional math teachers we've come across, we found ourselves asking whether math is really the logical-scientific process as commonly understood, or something at least as much about creativity? Many have noted the neuroscience linking math and musical ability - is it because both are fundamentally about patterns? Coming out of these conversations, we know that we must present math in a way that is both more real-world-oriented, and that allows a freedom of play and creativity. The metaphor with music is apt - a jazz musician depends on a strong understanding of the fundamentals, but does not limit herself to that.
Our second salon, on the question of how to raise global citizens, was equally stimulating. Many asked, why do we immediately consider travel programs, when within 20 miles we have dozens of cultures and languages to explore? What if we created more intentional exchange within the Bay Area itself? The conversation went deep into the underlying skills of global citizenship - how to develop in students the empathy, cultural awareness, world savvy and street skills to navigate new cultures and situations?
Finally, we turned to language. How is it that most students take three years of foreign language in middle school, yet cannot test out of the entry-level language course in high school? We have to move beyond foreign language teaching in which beginners talk with beginners, slowing their learning, while studying grammar before knowing what to do with it. Whether through language immersion experiences, or a more personalized language learning program that pairs students with native speakers and uses technology to develop skills, we are beginning to shape the elements of a more accelerated, and engaging, way to learn foreign language.
Throughout all of this, our team has been busy weaving together our curriculum framework, centered on the "Enduring Understandings" we seek to develop in our students. We are very fortunate to have the experienced help of Dr. Denise Pope, at the Stanford School of Education, guiding us as we develop our curriculum map. We look forward to sharing more of this in September, and to future Salon conversations. Our next salon, on the topic of developing physical health and wellbeing in adolescents, is on August 5th (more information here). We look forward to future conversations!