The Riverside School hosted a professional development opportunity for area teachers recently in the form of an intensive, 5-day, 40 hour course through the Center for School Renewal of Antioch University New England. Participants in the Critical Skills Institute included five teachers from The Riverside School and three teachers from Lyndon Institute.
The institute challenged teachers to develop a culture in their classrooms that values collaborative, experiential, problem-based,, and standards-driven learning. The designers of the Critical Skills model believe that we need future adults who know how to work together to solve problems.
The Level I institute experience is designed to introduce educators to the Critical Skills classroom model and prepare them to begin implementing it in their own learning environments. The classroom model is a highly interactive, experiential approach to learning that develops student knowledge and skills through collaborative problem-solving. Students in a Critical Skills classroom are thoroughly engaged in their learning and play a very active role in all aspects of the learning process. The overwhelming majority of students find the approach to be fun, stimulating, and very demanding. The institute experience for teachers reflected this same educational design.
Instructed by Nelia Rath, a graduate of Antioch University and Critical Skills Master Teacher, the group was introduced to all of the values and routines of a Critical Skills Classroom; diving intensively into the content through the eyes of the students they teach while also increasing and enhancing their own professional development goals.
As physically and intellectually exhausting as they all admittied it being, the participating teachers noted that it was one of the most rewarding and compelling courses they had ever taken. Each one enthusiastically considered how best to incorporate these new ideas into their classrooms. Noteworthy is the fact that every grade level from K-12 and a wide variety of subject area concentrations were represented among the eight participants.
The culminating project of the group was to present what they’d learned in the form of findings in an archaeological dig a thousand years in the future. The participants acted as researchers who wanted to learn about and present to others, why this educational model was appropriate for the 21st century and might also be for the 31st century! invite family and friends to learn about Critical Skills in the form of a museum experience This task and presentation process required that they put to use the collaborative, problem solving skills they’d been learning about all week. It was well received by their visiting audience of friends and family, who also gave valuable feedback that provided for further discussion.
The class had an immediate opportunity to apply their knowledge to a real life scenario. One of the participants was enjoying the collaborative experiencethroughout the week so much, that she invited everyone for a BBQ at her home at week’s end. It wasn’t long after they gathered, the hostess mentioned having to move a couch and not sure it would fit up the stairwell. The task was reviewed, roles were assigned, and together they solved the problem. It was decided that this group of educators will have reunions in order to support and inspire their endeavors to create Critical Skills classrooms, and those reunions will be problem-based.
The Riverside School looks forward to developing relationships with Antioch University and other institutions who want to provide professional development opportunities for teachers from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and North Country of New Hampshire.