When was the last time you saw kids enjoying school? It may have been at a dance or a pep rally or at lunch. But how about in the classroom?
Last week I had the privilege of visiting Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. SLA, as it's commonly known, is located in the heart of the city and conveniently just a few blocks away from the Franklin Institute. What makes SLA unique isn't it's good college placement results or its SAT scores.
Rather, SLA is unique in that it combines project-based learning with off-campus internships and field work. Its org chart is almost flat. Its teachers aren't paid more than in other schools. The dresscode is, to be honest, looser than loose. The facility is decent but not spectacular.
By identifying and articulating the exact type of school that SLA wanted to be eight years ago when it opened, it was able to start "from scratch". The results are amazing: kids like going to SLA and only 1 in 10 gets in. The school has just opened a second location to teach even more students.
We met with teachers and students. We asked them questions in the middle of their class sessions. Their responses were mature, honest and pretty impressive.
One of the values that impressed me most about SLA was what they call "reflection". SLA feels that this skill, and they call it a skill, is vital to the success of its students. They don't want kids who simply spit back to the teacher information. They want kids who can think and then articulate their thinking.
How can you promote reflection in your school and environment?