SparkHouse Learners Shed Light on an Age-Old Question
Learner Voices 16 February 2017
Young learners have a knack for believing in what’s possible.
ALL TOO OFTEN, we (the education community) find ourselves at conferences, gatherings, conventions, symposiums, and the like, and in the moment, we are empowered with seemingly unlimited energy, ready to move our learning ecosystems toward a transformational future. There’s great power in being in a room with hundreds of like-minded individuals all looking for ways to stretch the boundaries of what’s possible. Ideas are shared, collaborations go late into the night, and hope is restored.
For those of us who hold these events, we relish in the energy and are driven to continue providing these spaces of innovation. And, our hope is always to see continued engagement and collaboration even after the event has passed.
What does it take to not only get energized and enlivened by a house-rocking event but also bring that action back home?
As is often the case when working in the learner-centered paradigm, unknown answers tend to show up from the young learners themselves. Three months ago, Education Reimagined held its inaugural SparkHouse gathering where 42 learners from 12 states and 15 learning environments came together to explore how each of them could become leaders in the learner-centered movement. As a team, we are still awestruck by the power and energy that showed up over the course of the two days we spent with them. And, checking in with them earlier this month, we discovered something that (maybe) shouldn’t have come as a surprise: the “rolling thunder” is ever-present. These learners are still riding on the wave of enthusiasm, passion, and leadership we saw come alive at SparkHouse, even months later. And, what’s more—they have taken ownership for their continued collaboration and actions.
What are we hearing from them? The question we asked was simple; the responses were dynamic and action-oriented.
Have you taken any actions to share the possibility of learner-centered education and accelerate the movement since we were together for SparkHouse in November 2016?
Hannah and Jemar — Iowa BIG, Cedar Rapids, IA
Absolutely! We are in the preliminary steps of starting an organization and student congress called EdRevison. Our mission is to educate communities about the importance of learner-centered education and empower traditional and nontraditional students and teachers by bringing them together to revise education. While doing this, we plan to host events, work with learners in magnet schools, and speak at events in our region.
Maddie — RSU2, Hallowell, ME
The second I returned home from SparkHouse, I immediately began discussing what I learned with my friends. Learner-centered education completely changed my views on education, and I wanted others to be as excited about it as I am. I am a part of the student government in my school, and I have brought up talks about learner-centered education and what changes we can make to move our school in that direction. At some point, I would like to get around to the elementary and middle schools to let the younger students know about learner-centered education. They are the future learners of the nation. I will be graduating next year, and I do not want the thoughts of learner-centered education to end after I leave.
Ikonkar Kaur — Lindsay Unified School District, Lindsay, CA
I have talked to the Lindsay District on how we could improve the way we are using the learner-centered system right now. We need to integrate more of the project-based aspect into our schools.
Bryce — RSU2, Hallowell, ME
I have discussed these things with my friends and got their opinions. I will be going to a meeting with students from different schools in our district to discuss some changes that can be made to our education system to better it. I will probably bring up the many things that I saw at SparkHouse. Unfortunately, there are still students in our district that don’t like learner-centered education and do not want to change. I hope that by telling them about my experience at SparkHouse, it will change their minds.
Abigail — Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, Atlanta, GA
Currently, I am in the process of creating and developing a podcast centered on the idea of allowing learners to share their voice. The main purposes of this podcast are to not only empower learners to stand up and speak out but also share experiences of meaningful and impactful learning that’s done outside of the classroom.
Carissa — Poudre School District, Fort Collins, CO
Over the last few months, the teachers and administrators that attended SparkHouse with myself and the two other girls from my school have all been constantly talking about our experience. The relationship that has formed between the five of us is unlike any other relationship that I have had within my school. Not to mention that I have been talking nonstop about my experience at SparkHouse because it was truly remarkable. We are currently working and talking about what actions we should be taking next. Because we are from a large school and district and we are all very busy people outside of school, it’s been a bit of a slow start. However, we hope to present to our school board in the future.
Kennedy — Poudre School District, Fort Collins, CO
I have talked about the idea of learner-centered education with all of my peers and multiple teachers since attending SparkHouse back in November, and I have been wanting to bring the idea of changing our education environment to the school and district board.
Other participants have written letters to council members, crafted blog posts about SparkHouse and the importance of learner-centered education for present and future learners, prepared school-wide presentations, and spoken with State Commissioners of Education. One learner was so inspired by a project implemented district-wide in Lindsay, CA that he has taken action in providing free Wi-Fi access to peers in his community of Camden, NJ.
What is evident in all these actions is the choice to jump into the role of a leader who believes in the possibilities before them, rather than feeling defeated by the barriers standing in the way. Young learners have a knack for believing in what’s possible. In fact, we see them as the best ambassadors to generate and build sustainable energy around the learner-centered movement. Without their voices, our pioneers will always be searching for that missing piece to truly transform their education system.
As we march on in 2017, we can’t wait to continue exploring and creating spaces where learners are not only given an opportunity to be heard but also recognized and respected as leaders in the advancement of the learner-centered education movement. Their enthusiasm and belief in living into new possibilities is a mindset that we can’t move forward without!
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