The First Day of School!

LiHigh School starts tomorrow! It is absolutely crazy how fast summer went by, but everyone here, including the students (from what they tell me, anyways), is excited to get back to work. We’ve made all kinds of changes for this upcoming year, but the soul of the school — personalized learning in a community-based setting — hasn’t changed. For those who are interested, here’s a quick update on what we have in store.

New Daily Schedule

This year, students will be going to school for an extra half-hour each day. But we’re not just cramming in another lesson or making them stay longer because we’re sadistic. Instead, we’re implementing a half-hour of “quiet time” after lunch. Last year, we found that, no matter what we did, the students just weren’t energized or engaged after lunch, which ended up putting a funk on what we did in the afternoon. With quiet time, students will have the opportunity to digest their lunches, take a few minutes to center themselves, and get ready for our afternoon skills workshop.

The skills workshop is also a new addition this year. The afternoons last year provided the students with 90 minutes of independent learning time, during which the students would work independently on their own projects. While the independent time was good (outside of the “afternoon funk” I just described), we decided that the students were missing out on too many skills that will be necessary to succeed in the 21st century. While they are pursuing those skills via their independent projects, the reality is that they needed time set aside to specifically concentrate on those skills. As just an example of what we’re talking about, for the month of September, the skills workshops will see the students working to improve their public speaking skills.

New Classrooms

We’ve increased our enrollment by 133% this year (giving us a whopping SEVEN students, grades nine through twelve). The larger class size meant we needed a larger classroom. Luckily, there was space available just down the hall in our current building. We’ll be putting up a video of our new digs later this week, once the students have filled it with life.

New iPads

Every student who attends LiHigh School will be receiving their own iPad this year. Between the software that Apple has introduced specifically for the education market and the apps put together by third-party developers, the iPad is an incredibly useful tool for today’s students and teachers. With such a small school, it seemed like a no-brainer for us to put these incredible tools in the hands of our student body.

But because we want the students to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility with the iPad, we’re making the students pay for them out of their own pockets (parents are encouraged not to assist on the purchase). The students have until the end of the school year to pay us for the iPads, giving us $10 here, $50 there, with the end result being a tool that they can take off to college with them when they graduate.

So Much More

That just scratches the surface of the changes we’ve planned for this year. We’re also developing a whole new student/parent handbook (to be housed on the iPads), implementing a school-wide community-service term in the Spring (the whole term will be dedicated to community service), redesigning and redeveloping most of the various forms and worksheets that the students and parents use throughout the year, changing the goals that students have during their public exhibitions, instituting a portfolio review of each student’s work at the end of each term (similar to the way a graduate student would defend her dissertation), and so much more.

So keep coming back to to stay on top of all the exciting things our students will be doing this year. And wish us luck for tomorrow!