Traditional Instruction Gets Turned on Its Head

Traditional Instruction Gets Turned on Its Head

One Stone is a student-driven private high school near the heart of downtown Boise, ID. The school is part four-year high school, part educational R&D lab, part design-and-advertising agency — that turns virtually every high school tradition on its head, according to an article in The74.

Teachers are called “coaches,” and students not only guide the school’s board, but, according to its bylaws, hold two-thirds of board seats and 100% of officers’ positions. 

Each student shows up in the fall expected to manage their own learning, sitting down with advisors to create a personalized learning plan built around their interests and the importance of serving the community. 

While factual knowledge plays a key role, the school’s four-part “Bold Learning Objectives” — a framework called the BLOB — puts knowledge in its place, giving it equal footing with creativity and a forward-thinking way of approaching problems that has become an education buzz-phrase: a growth mindset.

The school may seem like an experimental throwback, but its brand of thinking has been building steam — and converts — for years. 

At least part of its model, a complex “growth transcript” that tracks students’ development in several non-traditional ways, could soon be more widely available: Last year, the school secured close to a quarter million dollars in National Science Foundation funding to further develop the idea. It’s testing the waters via licensing agreements with a handful of schools, in hopes that the transcript can provide an ongoing, if small, future revenue stream.

One Day looks nothing like a typical high school. Its one-story building comprises a handful of open-concept rooms, bordered by coaches’ offices and closed-door spaces for cooking, 3-D printing and music production.

The rooms shift quickly from meeting space to arts workshop to performance space. The furniture never seems to stay put.

The school day begins later than virtually any other high school in the nation — 9 a.m.

Students rarely attend formal classes — here they’re called “workshops” — instead working alone, with coaches or in small groups, on material that pushes their projects forward. In math, for instance, they rarely follow a prescribed sequence. In order to graduate, they take part in eight “math experiences” keyed to their projects. While they might not necessarily take a course labeled Algebra I, One Stone’s transcript translates its offerings into traditional courses for colleges.

Virtually every student has a different experience. For instance, while many students spend time making music or putting together benefit concerts and other events, others find both refuge and purpose in The Foundry, a workshop that houses woodworking and welding tools, a 3-D printer, a laser engraver and a CNC router — a massive automated tool that precisely cuts all manner of materials.

One Stone boasted an 83.8% college acceptance rate this spring and more than $2 million in projected four-year merit scholarships.

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