TALK IS CHEAP WHEN YOU LIVE IN THE “SHOW-ME STATE,” and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to accept mere words as proof of action. The leaders at EPiC Elementary hold this truth in high regard and let their innovative actions do the talking.
After a moment of introspection by the local school board, the entire education community in Liberty, Missouri was brought together to explore a brand new vision for their learners. Leaders gathered information from unique learning environments across the nation and began drafting a blueprint of how they could use these examples to build an environment that would meet the needs of their community.
A theme that continued to pop up no matter where they traveled was the cultivation of empowered learners—empowered to create, discover, and apply their learnings to the world around them in a way that was personalized, relevant, and contextualized. This empowerment produced an invigorating energy in both the learners and educators.
With their imaginations working at a level they hadn’t experienced since childhood, the district forged ahead with a new mindset: no idea is too crazy. Rather than building a brand new building, they “upcycled” an old office space and eliminated any sense of traditional, empty hallways. Every square inch was to be used for learning, and in a way, this propelled EPiC to a new age of learning.
Since opening, EPiC learners have been given the freedom to explore their interests. For example, when tasked with engineering toys from a limited number of resources, they were encouraged to test, fail, and test again on designs they were most interested in creating. From model swing sets to paper frisbees, each learner was not only engaged in their work but also able to identify lessons they learned along the way—like the importance of building a strong base to support a standing structure or making sure there is equal weight distribution in a flying object.
Paramount to the learning happening at EPiC is the freedom not only to create inside the building but also to apply and continue that learning through an open-walled approach where learners take their knowledge to the streets of Liberty and beyond. For instance, a group of nine-year-olds studying historic and modern-day explorers looked to deepen their understanding by connecting through FaceTime with a biomedical engineer from Germany, who explores the intricacies of the human spine.
With only a couple of years under their belt, learning at EPiC is happening at a rapid pace at all levels. As the system develops in this single environment, the entire district will be watching and imagining how this innovative system can be translated and adapted to all learners in Liberty.