Jake Maxmin, Global Civ Fellow and Co-developer, 2010-2011
The Institute For Global Civic Culture is going to be an adventure: The strategic and complex planning that lies ahead of us is something that no one can truly foresee. I regard the path that lies ahead of us as exciting rather then intimidating. The thing that I look forward to most is being able to design and have a say in the way I am educated. I am thrilled beyond belief to shape and mold my individual learning. I want my work to benefit other students my age. I hope that the discoveries I make will help to change the educational experience for millions of kids around the world. By teaching other people about what I am doing, I would like to spread a positive message to everyone in the educational world that shows the true potential of what high school teens can accomplish.
The idea of creating a school and a brand new system of learning is exhilarating, mostly because we have no boundaries. The idea of not being constrained by a set format is the best part. We have nobody to tell us how our school has to be shaped or how it has to act. All we have to do is listen to ourselves and fix everything that doesn’t work within our emerging system. We have to work out every kink that we come across as our school progresses and not overlook small details.
I love the idea of studying one subject at a time and being able to focus all my attention and time on a single project. The thought of not having to multi-task countless assignments and pointless class times is perfection. The block scheduling is such an ideal format for advanced and focused learning. In conventional school environments your attention is split between countless subjects, assignments, and projects. You begin to juggle so many different topics that your goal becomes to simply get everything completed, rather than to understand what you are actually supposed to be learning about.
The idea of hands-on active learning is going to be one of the most important aspects of our school. Learning on site with experts in their field is going to be challenging as well as interesting, and will provide a highly useful set of skills for the rest of my life. My vision for this aspect of our program will be to apply everything that I learn in the equivalent of a classroom setting to real world problems and experiences. Knowledge is useless without the skills to apply it and use it in a positive way.
The best way for my learning to come together and make sense for me is the idea of weaving together each block section and creating a larger more complex project or exhibition. Therefore, I am looking forward to being able to express my work in an end of the year exhibition, as I continuously weave my learning together throughout my blocks.
Taking trips up north in the winter, or working with the Darling Center in the fall/spring are just a few other projects that would be fun to take up. I look forward to designing and constructing the basis for these projects and making them as interesting as possible.
Another one of the things that I really look forward to doing is taking a relevant trimester/semester off in my junior and or senior year to experience some of my subjects in their natural settings. That idea takes hands-on learning to a new level.
The things that I am scared of are not nearly as numerous as the things I am excited about. One thing I am concerned about is not having a teacher present for all of my courses—someone whom I can walk up to and say “This makes no sense, how do you do it?” I am sure with most of my subjects I will still have an outlet like this, but only with certain online or distance learning courses will this be available. I might not have a teacher to turn to in some cases.
Being able to express the quality of my work to outside raters is another problem that concerns me. I am still unsure about the ways I am going to exemplify my work. I have always been the type of person that can explain my understanding ten times better verbally than in writing. I understand that this is something I need to focus on, and I have already spent a lot of time during recent years working on this problem. During the next couple of years, the core of my work is going to be online and not in a context where it will be easy to express my understanding verbally. I am worried that not all of my knowledge will be able to shine through my writing and my online work. My other concerns on this topic have to do with how I will present my work to colleges and others who will need to judge and evaluate my level of my understanding. What I am curious about is how we are going to present my work and make it credible according to national and international standards.
I know that all these problems will get resolved in the best way, and that this is something that will leave a mark on us for the rest of our lives. The only thing I can truly say with certainty is, I can’t wait!