Thursday, June 16, 2011

What A Night




Last night we held the inaugural Classics Academy Night. In prior posts I have talked about the Classics Academy. Just as a refresher we started a theme based academy for 12th graders this year.

The Classics Academy is a cross-curricular experience for seniors who wish to explore the connections of Ancient Greece and Rome both to western intellectual history and, to their own lives. Through the study of classical literature, history, mathematics, art, religion and philosophy, students learn to produce and consume new knowledge while synthesizing complex understandings of the human experience.- Classics Academy overview

A cohort of 9 students traveled between 5 core classes (AP European History, AP Latin: Vergil, AP Literature: Classical Literature and its Resonance, Classical Math and History, The Symposium for the Classics Academy). All of the courses were linked through the study of classical civilizations and also through an overarching essential question. Last night students shared their answer to the following question:

In what way or ways is my present contingent on my individual and humankind's collective past

Through a public exhibition students shared personal insights to an audience of over 100 people. Each student was left to develop a medium to express their answer to the essential question. Exhibitions ranged from a wood carving of a Minotaur (see above), to an Encaustic painting, to a mosaic, to a pieces of literature, to a play written and directed by an academy student and to a symphony composed and conducted by a member of the Classics Academy.

The night was representative of how important it is to empower passionate individuals and to support interest-based learning. The night also affords the chance to write about the types of experiences schools should provide for students and teachers. I was thinking of sharing thoughts about the following:
  • the contrast between public exhibitions and traditional assessments (finals week starts today) and why traditional assessment structures are still supported
  • multiple pathways (variety in exhibitions was incredible)
  • collective actions (it was the night before finals and 23 kids volunteered to be part of the symphony and another 10 volunteered to act for the drama)
  • passion-based learning
  • theme-based academies
  • empowering stakeholders to assume ownership
However, I was struck by commentary from one student. In thanking individuals, the student left a final appreciation for the Classics Academy and shared that the 4 teachers and 8 other students had changed her life for the better because of the time they spent together. Not to turn this post into an after school special, but could any educator or parent ask for anything more out of a classroom experience. It was touching to see how much the kids meant to one another and how much they appreciated the chance to learn from each other.

Congrats to all on a great night.