An Ethic of Excellence

While on a fun holiday in California in June, I had the chance to connect with a wonderful 14 year old student from the public charter school, High Tech High, San Diego North County. It was great to be able to hear first hand, how she perceives her school’s philosophy, programs and culture:

“The philosophy at our school is project-based learning, collaboration, communication and co-existing with other students… At our school, we do not use any textbooks; we learn from projects … for example, instead of doing a worksheet or two on the types of air pressure, we were put into groups and made hovercrafts… At High Tech High, everything is about using your hands and body to build objects and learn from it.”

Earlier this year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Rob Riordan, a co-founder of High Tech High and now President of the High Tech High Graduate School of Education.  Rob confirmed the experiential focus of the program and added that one of the keystone aspects of the High Tech High program is their ‘Exhibition of Learning’, where every student exhibits some portion of their year’s work – the work becomes public and thus motivates excellence among both students and teachers. A related recommendation from Rob was the book, An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students . It’s an easy, must-read for all teachers to learn about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of creating a culture of excellence through a student focused, project based learning environment, with examples from a range of schools with varying resources.

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