Brainstem Symposium

brainstem symposium
From Coach K
I recently attended the BrainSTEM Symposium at Riverview High School (RHS). This was a multi-day event held during school hours to showcase how a school can look, feel, and operate when faculty shifts focus from teaching subjects and students to growing humans.
The symposium’s focus was not to tell educators about a fancy new methodology but rather to show how a real school is growing, how students are responding, and developing, and how it can be done. The how-to happened on both a micro level (individual student successes and different classes) and a macro level (whole school changes, and organisational strategies.
I was able to speak with teachers and students, in their classes, about some issues critical to student success:
1. How RHS teachers focus on a finite number of curriculum outcomes in each class (the ones truly necessary for later success in life) for students to pass the course. While others (the ones necessary to behave like a chemist/historian/mathematician) are EXTRA and require boat loads of work to make up the mark between 60-100.
1. The FOCUS is the important part. As students can no longer just get random marks here and there that add up to 60%. 60% is a defined set of skills and knowledge
2. How RHS Teachers spend small portions of each day helping students in a “Working Period” that is optional for students. Teachers alternate between working periods and class specific teacher meetings each day. This allows students to get regular help when they need it. Get extended breaks when they do not need help. While also giving teachers time to meet with each other during school hours.
3. I was also able to see how students are given real opportunities to grow themselves, regarding passions and soft skills. These students work on semester and year-long projects that focus on real world issues and interests. The students actually build solutions to problems. They mix chemicals, carve wood, wire robots, call municipal officials, MLAs, MPs, and professionals and more.
1. These student-led projects aren’t the same old school projects with the option to choose between making a powerpoint presentation, movie, or website. This is an entire learning experience with a purpose.
The BrainSTEM Symposium was more than an interesting experience. The highlights I listed are just a sampling of what was going on at RHS. However, the lessons of the symposium are bigger than lesson plans and projects.
School can be different; School HAS to change. Our students are living in an ever-changing world. We can no longer pretend to know what their working and personal lives will look like. We do not know what knowledge and hard skills the students need. However, we know they need to know how to change. They need to know how to make decisions, solve problems, find knowledge, learn skills, create new things.
School has to change, and RHS is trying to show us how it can change.
Coach K
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass