Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Trip To Singapore

During my first week at APIS this fall, all staff were presented with the opportunity to apply to be on a team of teachers and administrators that would travel to Singapore, visit some international schools, and bring back ideas and inspiration for APIS. The focus of this trip was to be, "personalized learning."

I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of 14 staff members to go on the trip, and at the beginning of September we took off for a 4-day whirlwind visit in Singapore. Two of the days were spent traveling, and on the other two days we visited schools.

The first school we visited was Singapore American School, the focus of this blog post. It's a huge international school with a stellar reputation. However, recently they decided that they needed to start thinking more about the future of education and adapt their instruction to fit 21st Century Learning. Over the course of a year, they sent teachers to many schools around the world to gather information about advances in education, and then a core group of staff members worked together to develop plans, based on what inspired them, for the future of SAS. They are just now in the first years of some of these changes.

Several teachers had conversations with us about the SAS Advisory program, and we also got to see their cutting-edge Early Childhood classrooms. The two initiatives I was most interested in, however, were in the high school. One program that was piloted last year and has been extended to include all Seniors this year, provides time, resources, and mentors for every Senior to complete a "project" of their choice. These projects might be writing and performing a play, starting a business, or completing long-term scientific research. Along the way, the students have classes to support their goal-setting and people skills, but also have some flexibility in their schedules if they need to leave campus for their project.

The other intriguing program we were able to visit was for those Seniors who have already completed all their requirements for graduation and have potentially reached their limit for AP courses. As Juniors, these students can apply to a special group of approximately 20 students who meet as a "class" all day every day to experience a truly interdisciplinary, personalized curriculum. The class has 3 teachers (one ELA, one Math, one Science) who are in the room all day as well, and the students receive various English, Math, and Science credits for taking the course. There are short, direct-instruction sessions for those students who need them, as well as large-group discussions, but there is also plenty of time for students to explore individual passions. The space they spend every day in is pretty amazing too. Check out some photos below:

Central work area. Kitchenette in the back.

Cafe-style booth seating for more intimate conversations.

A glassed-off conference room within the larger room. Plenty of whiteboard space for ideas.

Comfy seating in the conference room.

Project board with standards the students are working on, as well as a timeline for daily goals.
I would love to teach in an interdisciplinary, passion-based, personalized environment like the class I saw at SAS, and I'm excited that APIS is looking in this direction! I feel so fortunate to have been able to visit these schools and see the creative ways they're thinking about education.

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