Pushing the Boundaries of Education to Prepare Our Students for the Future

At Marin Academy, we strive to provide our students with unique, immersive, and innovative educational experiences. Rooted in experiential learning, MA has always been a forward-thinking school that pushes the boundaries of education. Our partnership with the Bay Area BlendEd Consortium, which began two years ago, was, therefore, a natural fit for us. The Bay Area BlendEd Consortium is comprised of five schools: Marin Academy, The Athenian School, The College Preparatory School, Lick-Wilmerding High School and The Urban School. The Consortium provides juniors and seniors with a unique opportunity to take classes with peers and teachers from any of the Consortium’s schools. BlendEd courses combine face-to-face instruction with online learning, prepping our students for the changing format of instruction and communication they will encounter beyond our campus.

While this year marks the inaugural year of BlendEd courses, the development of this groundbreaking program has taken place over the course of the past several years. I’m proud of the work our faculty members have done to make this program a success and I wanted to share a few highlights from this year’s courses with the community. I look forward to seeing how the program continues to evolve and am excited that we are leading the way with this revolutionary educational model.

Bay Area Ecology—Led by Liz Gottlieb (Marin Academy)

Field Study on Mt. Tam

The Bay Area Ecology course headed up Mount Tamalpais to complete field study research.

This course focused on three major goals: to use science to come to an understanding of relationships and systems in the natural world; to identify and analyze environmental problems – both natural and man-made; and to examine measures for resolving and/or preventing these problems.

“I think the BlendEd courses allow students to engage with content they are curious and passionate about at their own pace, on their own time and with the support of online colleagues/peers from ‘sister’ schools,” said Liz Gottlieb. “Motivated and organized students can thrive in this setting and the online learning format really fosters self-motivated education. Offsite and field experiences are easily integrated through BlendEd and are essential to a deeper type of study. Moreover, the on-demand support that students can get from a BlendEd course equals or surpasses what a student might be able to find in the traditional classroom. Students also get immediate feedback on work and discussions, which leads to faster evaluation turnover and the courses are inherently adaptable as well, and assignments and projects are often designed with flexible components like partners or no partners and are due within a window of time vs. a set time and date.”

Students who participated in the Bay Area Ecology BlendEd course seemed to appreciate the deeper involvement and hands-on opportunities this course offered. A few of their quotes from midway through the course are included below:

“I love that I can go for a quick hike to take a break from sit-down homework and do something for this class. I also enjoy that we are doing so many hands-on activities. It is great to learn about the environment around me while also developing skills that I could use to research other environments as well.”

“I really enjoy the variety of topics I get to learn from this course. I get to examine plants, birds, and bacteria, which is very enjoyable to do both on our field trips and on my own. I like how all the students are still connected to each other through commenting on the discussions.”

Field Study Photography & Bay Area History—Led by Miranda Thorman (Marin Academy) and Adam Thorman (The Athenian School)

Field Study in Mission DIstrict

Students completed their first field study in San Francisco’s Mission District.

This course was a field study project executed by students from three San Francisco Bay Area high schools. Students explored a number of issues relevant to the area through photographs and research.

“These classes are great opportunities for MA students because they allow for more experiential learning, through field trips as well as individual assignments and projects,” said Miranda Thorman. “The unique, blended nature of the course allowed students to actually do the work of a photographer and historian by choosing a local issue and then exploring the issue through photography and hands-on research.”

Click here to view some of the work students created through Field Study Photography & Bay Area History.

Expanding Offerings at MA

Next year Miranda will be offering a new elective at MA called Gender Studies: Feminism in America Then and Now. This class was inspired by the BlendEd Consortium and will take somewhat of a blended approach, integrating online features into the traditional, in-class format, which will allow for more experiences outside of the classroom and in smaller groups.

“I am excited about this class because it allows me to re-think educational time and space,” said Miranda. “Students will have the chance to conduct research and then take action on their research in the community outside MA. They will also get to extend classroom conversations beyond the MA campus through discussion boards and other web-based platforms. This is a great opportunity for students to try out a new style of learning—one that they will see in college and beyond.”

For more information on the BlendEd Consortium and on courses being offered next year, click here.

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About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
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