Students represent a diverse population; educational opportunities should mirror and honor that diversity.
It is easy to crush aptitude and the innate desire to learn in many of our brightest and most creative minds. We should, instead, be encouraging our young scientists, engineers, poets, scholars and artists to pursue these passions during their school years. These students can easily meet basic standards and then choose to be immersed in pursuits of individual greatness.
Orsch students benefit from a genuine community of a diverse population within their classroom. Orsch students benefit from the latest in research based best practices. Orsch students benefit from a truly individualized atmosphere where there is no limit to their creativity, knowledge base, and individual passion.
Engaged, knowledgeable, happy, confident and intrinsically motivated students develop. Productive, well balanced people are the outcome.
Orsch is an educational lab dedicated to finding and implementing practices that work best for all students.
Children will always teach us how to teach if we listen. Currently students are begging for individualized and differentiated instruction, for cooperative learning and for experiential learning – current paradigms in education. It is my hope that students in the Gunnison Valley, and someday beyond, can benefit from a program designed to bring them the very best in programming and opportunity. – Jackie Burt, 2009 An educational philosophy has been developed as a result of our lab. Our objective is capable, thriving learners – engaged and invigorated, capable of reaching their potential and benefiting from the best of themselves, ultimately sharing their innate talents, individuality and well rounded perspective with a world community.
This objective is at the top – a roof, a pinnacle. At the bottom is a foundation of security – security which is offered by nurturing adults and a safe and social community. Above the foundation are three essential pillars. We have all seen students existing in school without these pillars in place. Current models of education give almost no value to them in the realm of academics.
The first pillar: independence and flexibility. The second pillar:creativity. The third pillar: limitless approaches to knowledge and experience – variety. This is a philosophy ultimately taught to us by the students themselves. Students thrive given
these essential elements in their education and when these elements are available,
students beg for more. When allowed to learn in an environment that not only allows
for these elements, but encourages them, students take ownership; they are happy and
soar above benchmarks.
Our objective in education should be to produce capable, engaged, thriving learners. Capable learners are confident. They naturally think critically and creatively. They believe in themselves as intelligent beings who can problem solve, invent and gain knowledge. They adhere to their interests with fervor, wanting to know more, wanting to grow and develop their skills.
Engaged learners display much of the above. They dig in and enjoy their time within a lesson or project. They are hungry for knowledge and excited to be involved in the process of learning. Thriving learners encompass everything a true student should. They are curious, eager to learn, and comfortable making mistakes. They are comfortable sharing their knowledge. They thrive within an innate human desire to learn and grow – whatever the topic or skill may be.
Orsch’s secure environment starts with nurturing adults. Most teachers are nurturing people at heart and those who aren’t probably won’t like this paradigm. Nurturing adults offer appropriate guidance and unconditional support. Nurturing adults understand developmental stages of growth. And they understand that home life, social life and even hunger can make a big difference in academics.
A student was asked, before enrolling in Orsch, what percentage of his day was affected negatively by social interactions. His answer was 100%. Students are significantly affected by their peers. Students are more affected than we realize and our attempts to eliminate bullying are largely failing. In Orsch a community exists – a real community. Our community contains diversity. Diversity in opinion, strengths, weaknesses, interests, pacing, attention spans, skills, talents, personalities – you name it – we have it. This community is almost a family; we accept each other unconditionally.
Some say this is magic. When they walk into Orsch it feels like magic. But, it’s not that easy magic comes with the stroke of a wand. This community is all strategy – implementable strategy.
Pillar I – Independence and Flexibility
Independence is possibly the most useful element – one that aids in good classroom management. When a child is given freedom of space, time and choice he has ownership and engagement in his tasks. His learning is now in his hands. Independence is the beginning of a successful student-centered program and results in intrinsic motivation for achievement, accomplishments and learning.
Flexibility is a must – flexibility in timing, pacing, lesson levels, product expectations, and skill development – everything that goes on within a school and within a school day. Without flexibility, we adhere to sameness. If we don’t employ flexibility students cannot be creative; they cannot demonstrate independence.
Pillar II – Creativity
We are creative beings. Creativity is often encouraged in the realms of visual and performing arts and gets its time in gifted and talented classrooms. But it should be an element in every lesson and activity. Creativity must be encouraged and accepted in all that we do. Creativity must reign in assignments, projects, answers, questions, discussions and vision. Creativity must have no limits. When creativity is encouraged an everyday assignment is turned into a child’s natural playground. Monotony is turned into expressive results. New, innovative thoughts inspire, and nurture a love for learning and growth. Creativity is one of the most motivating elements Orsch has discovered in students. Creative actions seem to offer some sort of natural boost. Creativity can be modeled and taught, but mostly it must simply be allowed for it to flourish.
Pillar III – Knowledge and Experience Delivered with Variety
Knowledge and experience seem obvious elements of an educational paradigm. However, it is the approach to gaining knowledge and experience that is Orsch’s third pillar. Orsch aims to deliver knowledge and experience in as many ways as possible – and then some. Decades of research tell us that innovative approaches such as experiential learning, project based learning, whole brain-based learning are more effective than traditional lessons. A collaborative project teaches more than a worksheet or textbook chapter. If multiple approaches and opportunities for learning are offered, more students will engage and gain from experiences. More information will stick if it is creatively delivered. Howard Garnder’s Multiple Intelligences model suggests that each of us is a different learner. Orsch has discovered that not only is each student a different learner, each can be one type of learner at 9:00am and another type at 1:30pm. We aim to offer endless methods and therefore, will simply reach more students more effectively. Often a multiple-intelligence model for teaching is a goal in traditional environments – new teachers are aware of its effectiveness from their licensing program, but education leaves little room for it in the reality of a traditional classroom. Innovative approaches are a standard in Orsch – and we commit to looking for more.
In addition to teachers offering innovative approaches and dynamic lessons, students are taught and encouraged to acquire knowledge through student chosen methods. For example, some new math students gravitate toward counting bears while others prefer a number line. Some students were able to memorize the 206 bones in the human body through flash cards and visuals while others chose to write a rap song. When limitless and student chosen options are offered, students have no barriers to success.