It is challenging to know what or who you want to be when you grow up if you are never exposed to more than a handful of possibilities. When Latitude High School in Oakland, CA opened its doors in August 2018, ensuring an abundant access to possibilities was a top priority. Through open-walled learning experiences across the Bay Area, young learners visit tech giants, small startups, dynamic non-profits, and more—interviewing employees who know the business and what it takes to work there. These Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) spark learners’ imaginations and allow each learner to brainstorm project ideas that are personalized, relevant, and contextualized.
An example of the unexpected possibilities that result from this learner-centered framework came last fall. Latitude High learners set out to interview local changemakers in the Bay Area. They wanted to amplify the changemakers’ stories, so the entire community would know about their impact. Young learners sharpened their interviewing skills through ELOs and this changemaker project to the point where they created a podcast that featured the community’s voices.
Given the socially embedded nature of Latitude High, the entire cohort of learners imagined how they could continue learning about other interests through the podcast project. They decided it would be cool to engineer their very own speakers and have the podcast played through them. Once the two aspects of the project came to their respective conclusions, the entire cohort of 50 learners listened to the learner-created podcast through the learner-created speakers—the podcast can now be listened to on iTunes and other podcasting platforms.
One of the podcast hosts, Sierra, played the first episode in front of her family, and her mother said she had never been prouder of her daughter. The learner agency exhibited by all of these Latitude High learners is allowing parents and the community at-large to see these young learners in a brand new light.
Latitude High has a saying: “Oakland is our home. The Bay Area is our extended classroom.” As this learner-centered environment continues to grow and prove just how much young people can accomplish, the concept of an “extended classroom” will no longer be necessary. The community as a playground for learning will simply be the norm and the idea of a “classroom” being the place for learning will no longer be the dominant assumption.
Latitude High is off to a fast start. As their enrollment grows—young and adult learners alike—they are looking forward to being a high-profile learner-centered environment many education leaders see as the place to go for transformational ideas.