The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Another Educator Likes a New Type of High School

on October 19, 2016

Today’s post is a response by Don Bellairs, an experienced and talented teacher, to my piece posted six days ago. Both of us were intrigued by the description of a new type of high school that gives students in danger of failing in regular schools a fresh start with a forward-thinking curriculum, hands-on-learning, and personal attention.


Wooden High School’s project-based learning curriculum is not really new, but it is important…and should not be limited to kids who can’t jump through the typical curriculum hoops. Schools like Wooden are given some freedom and enough personnel to show kids individual attention…but all kids need that. All kids should be getting some personal guidance and feedback while creating projects in groups, where they constantly practice by choosing leaders, collecting data, planning, procuring supplies, and achieving a goal!

In ordinary high schools we are punishing many of the students who are capable of self-teaching; who can read chapters and answer questions about subject matter, but who aren’t much involved in the regular curriculum. We are also labeling those kids as “unsuccessful” or even “not too bright.” Unfortunately, giving personal attention is easier for teachers with kids who dress well, smell good and whose parents know people on the School board.

On the other hand, schools like Wooden are given some freedom and enough personnel to show students individual attention.   All kids are getting personal guidance and feedback while creating projects in groups, where they constantly practice by choosing leaders, collecting data, planning, procuring supplies, and achieving a goal!

A good team of teachers can build a nice holistic unit on raising a calf. Kids can write and do research, accumulate data, solve problems, practice math and algebra, work within a team toward a measurable goal…and have a pretty good relationship with a cute animal.

Lesson plans that assign projects and require teams of students to work beyond self-interest to reach a measurable goal are in the future, but should be in more of today’s schools.Wooden has a good start, and if its leaders can retain funding, it will probably benefit from consistent upward tweaks to its academic offerings. If the staff is committed, they could create a workable model for all high schools to imitate.

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