When we envision a well-rounded, progressive education for our kids, we think of a vibrant environment that nurtures students’ passions, provides structure for rich and deep learning, a place where kids can get their hands on projects that are meaningful to them.
That’s the goal at Brightworks, a small, K-12 private school just starting its second year in San Francisco: to re-imagine traditional modes of education so that curiosity and creativity hold sway over standardized tests and worksheets. But in the course of creating this space for students’ interests, the school has also had to refine some of its original ideas to make room for realities like assessments and how to group students.
Brightworks first opened last fall, billed as a progressive school that allows kids to follow their own passions. It’s organized very differently from traditional schools. Teachers are known as “collaborators” and the curriculum is centered on “the Brightworks arc,” which divides learning into three phases – exploration, expression, and exposition – based on a central theme. The students explore a theme, design projects around that theme, then present their work to the community. The idea is that these projects – such as building a wooden stage for a play they’ve written or using aerial silks to demonstrate kinetic energy – provide the context for learning core academic skills.
As with every experiment, the first year has provided plenty of opportunities for refining, according to founder and co-director Gever Tulley.
“It’s been a great year. We’ve had great moments and we’ve had hiccup-y moments,” Tulley said. Continue reading