In Hopkins, we are on a mission to move from Great to World Class. As I am out in buildings, observing students and teachers, it has become clear to me that our classrooms are active, student-centered learning environments. Every day, I see evidence of our progress towards our ultimate goal of Vision 2031 and the traits we want the 2031 graduate to exhibit.
We are well on our way to our World Class destination, and the journey is much shorter than we think! Let me share with you some recent moments I've had in Hopkins classrooms.
Momentous learning is informed by space
In more than 70 classrooms, across all six of our elementary schools, the traditional desks have been removed! Instead, you'll find an array of brightly colored and fun shaped furniture that can easily be reconfigured. Classrooms have high-top tables, kidney-bean shaped tables with wheels, sofas (some with built-in bookshelves), bean bags, core balls, rocking chairs, and more. Now in the third year of space exploration, the elementary instructors who call these classrooms home have shared insights about how their role as educators is evolving. Dare I challenge us to fully embrace 2031 by completely removing furniture reminiscent of the 1900s?
Engaging learning empowers student voice and choice
When space is reconfigured, students feel good. They are allowed to select where and how they want to place their bodies to maximize their brain focus. Little ones learn skills of collaboration to negotiate a desire to sit in a particular work place. In these communal classrooms, students share pencils, paper, scissors, and everything else. Not only do students learn about team building, they also learn about empathy.
Self-directed learning increases confidence
On a recent visit to a Tanglen second-grade classroom, a student approached me and asked what questions I had about his classroom. I was impressed with his confidence. Across these second-grade rooms, I saw self-directed learning in action as students independently moved from leveled reading, to word work, to independent writing. Student names were in groups on the classroom display. The teacher did not call out to students when to travel to the next task. She simply rang a bell and transition seamlessly occurred.
Courageous teachers who are not afraid to fail
Alice Smith fifth- and sixth-grade teachers conducted their own lab experiment. Interested in multi-age groupings and teaching literacy holistically, they designed a literacy model to encourage engagement through a hands-on learning experience. This year-long lab culminates by learning literacy through Native American studies and a project building a life-size canoe with Urban Boatbuilders. I can't wait to put these boats to the test in the water!
Vision 2031— a collective vision
Our community continues to contribute to Vision 2031. This fall, more than 200 parents, teachers, students, and community members participated in one of nine Strategic Focus Teams. These teams met for six weeks and on the final night, each group provided bold and new recommendations for how Hopkins should move from Great to World Class. Our next step is to use decision-making tools to prioritize these recommendations to then pave our roadmap to 2031. Stay tuned for details!
Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed