The upcoming Senior Thesis Project (STP) Conference (February 22-23, 2016 in Camden, N.J.) and the Big Picture Learning (BPL) schools are perfect illustrations as to why — pedagogically speaking — work and community are essential aspects of classroom learning.
Schools that implement the Big Picture Learning design explicitly provide students with weekly opportunities to go out into the community to intern and learn from mentors. The model allows students to experiment with classroom learning in their communities while still having a safe place to return and discuss these ideas from different perspectives.
This year’s STP conference (link opens PDF file), which is being put on by Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, will be hosted by MetEast High School in Camden, N.J. The conference is a congregation of various Big Picture schools and will act as a dialogue-based think tank to inspire students as they launch their own Senior Thesis Projects. Those projects are assignments employed by Big Picture schools where the students organize and implement a project designed to leave a lasting impact on their respective communities.
Being an active and purposeful member of the workforce gives students a unique, real-world perspective on issues facing their communities. Interacting with their classroom peers gives them the tools and lexicon necessary to tackle such issues. The gathering of young people from different walks of life can act as a transformative experience.
And the goal? Providing a platform for students to share ideas and experiences that culminate in genuine circumspection. At the STP conference, students discuss their projects with one another and offer unique advice and opinions developed from their own communities. This kind of intersectional, intercultural dialogue enables students to bring new, revolutionary ideas to the table. And it inspires them to be more ambitious in their pursuits.
Students and staff at MetEast are excited to network, teach others about their district, and take a fresh look at how things operate in their classroom. Having the conference held in Camden will give them a very unique chance to bring about change in their own community.
But the conference isn’t only beneficial to those who attend. Afterward, students are encouraged to bring their new ideas and stories back home with them. Sharing them with friends, family and students who didn’t get a chance to attend creates a greater sense of community among Big Picture schools and is intended to jumpstart dialogue within each school’s classroom.
Personally, I am excited to hear the experiences and struggles each student has faced and overcome and I intend to use those stories to better Eagle Rock’s community. The conference will be great practice at facilitating successful dialogue and any new strategies and techniques that could be implemented in Eagle Rock classrooms and discussions. I am also committed to sharing what I have learned in my years as an educator to inspire and help students who may benefit from my own experience.
It is cross-cultural, student-centered learning such as this that has the best chance of revolutionizing America’s public school system.
To register for the 2016 Senior Thesis Project (STP) Conference, please visit https://metschool.wufoo.com/forms/zw63g450fy2ogr/. To download this year’s conference flyer, please click on the image below:
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About the Author: Michael Soguero is the director of professional development at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. There, he is primarily responsible for developing strategy that positively affects public education throughout the United States.