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Lessons from Leonardo

One of the Christmas presents that found its way under my tree this year is the recently-published biography, Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson.  Several years ago, I had really enjoyed reading Isaacson's well-crafted biography, Steve Jobs, and I was excited to read this soon-to-be bestseller and learn more about da Vinci and the Italian Renaissance over the holiday break.  I was really looking forward to reading a book that wasn't about "work" or "education," so on a quiet morning after the pandemonium of Christmas Day had passed, I settled into my comfortable reading chair, covered myself in a warm afghan, and plunged in, eager to leave my work behind me.  I wasn't 15 pages into the book when I threw back the afghan and, grumbling to myself, walked over to my desk to retrieve my journal, highlighter and pen.  Already I had recognized some passages in the book that I felt were relevant to our #HollistonInnovates work and knew I just had to share th…

#HollistonInnovates Isn’t Just About Students…

I’ve been emailing with a Middle School teacher here in Holliston who is redesigning one of her ELA units. Her premise is, in some ways, simple, yet her results are much more complex.

In essence, the “content” of the unit is unchanged. The class is reading the same book they’ve read for the past several years: Night by Elie Wiesel. The unit objectives are unchanged: to gain insight of the Holocaust from a first-person account, and focus on applying this knowledge of human history to change our human future. This teacher recently spent a portion of a recent Professional Development Day putting together new additions for their reading of Night. Now, students will be using the tools from iWitness where they will first create a GeoMap for another survivor. IWitness is an educational website developed by USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education that provides access to more than 1,500 full life histories, testimonies of survivors and witnesses to the Holocau…

Portrait of a graduate – Why #HollistonInnovates

In my premier blog entry posted on September 13, 2017, I asked a simple yet provocative question, “What is the purpose of a K-12 education?”    I shared the thinking of several well-known authors and concluded my entry with the promise that Holliston’s educational leaders were grappling with that exact question and that our answer would be published in my “next” blog entry.
Well, obviously some time has passed since that entry and, while this blog has included quite a few exciting examples of the changes that our #HollistonInnovates initiative has brought to our classrooms, it’s time to return to the beginning and answer “the purpose” question.Since July, the administrative team of the Holliston Public Schools has grappled with this question.Our face-to-face and on-line conversations have been deep, thought-provoking and challenging.Getting more than a dozen leaders to agree to a concept was easy – but putting that concept on paper required much more time and debate th…

#HollistonInnovates - A Mid-Year Update

We’ve reached the mid-point of the 2017-2018 school year with winter firmly ensconced in Holliston and our classrooms abuzz with engaged and excited students and teachers. In my column on the cover of the August 2017 Back-to-School Newsletter, I announced that the Holliston Public Schools, inspired by our history, was focusing our efforts on “Rekindling Holliston’s Innovative Spirit” with the goal of unleashing the creativity and curiosity of our staff and students and encouraging and supporting the development of innovative instructional practices, fueled by the growing levels of technology available in our classrooms. These efforts are designed to help each of our students discover their purpose and develop their individual curiosity, passion and imagination. The response from the parent community to this bold shift in focus was both strong and positive.
On the opening day of school, I spoke to the entire PreK-12 faculty and staff. During that presentation, I shared that I though…

#HollistonInnovates Teaches that “It Takes a Village…”

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If you’re ever walking the halls of Holliston High School, I encourage you to visit Studio370, a remarkable space tucked behind the cafeteria where student art work is always being displayed.  This year, the space has been devoted to the construction of the project “It Takes a Village”, an art community project where students from Placentino, Miller
, Adams and HHS are working together to create a city solely from cardboard.  Students work independently or in small groups to design and build a dwelling, office building, person, animal or object that they believe exists or should exist in a community.  Teachers and parents are also helping out by supplying recyclable cardboard that serves as the raw materials for this ambitious project.                 While many parents recognize the role that the fine arts can play in developing a student’s creativity, projects like this go further – encouraging students to collaborate in small and large groups to build a cohesive vil…

5th Graders learn about Ancient Civilizations through Project-Based Learning

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Two of Holliston's earliest adopters, Miller School 5th grade teachers Sara Peters and Ashley DeRoy have already been featured once in this blog.  In my October 5th entry, I highlighted the Longitude/Latitude unit they redesigned, experimenting with a different way for students to highlight their learning -- an "Amazing Race" inspired group "competition" for students to follow longitude and latitude clues to find their way to their final destination.  What I didn't highlight in that description was my wonder at the courage that Ms. Peters and Ms. DeRoy showed during the development of that lesson.  Unsure of the outcome and whether or not the unit was going to be successful, they bravely invited me to observe the students as part of their public exhibition.  That takes a lot of guts.

I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me then, that I received another invitation to visit their classes -- this time to view their students' presentations on their Pre…

Educators across Mass and US react to #HollistonInnovates News Story

On Thursday, November 9, a story appeared on a local Boston television station highlighting Holliston innovative approach to classroom instruction. For those of you who may have missed it, the link to the broadcast story is http://www.fox25boston.com/news/mcas-test-backlash-has-local-superintendent-taking-new-approach/644744104

Over the course of the next several days educators shared this story across social media. Reactions to the story we’re both strong and immediate and, in testimony to the power of social media, came from as far away as Hawaii. I thought my readers might find both the content and the strength of the reactions noteworthy.

One Massachusetts educator wrote: “Someone once gave me a plaque that read: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men/women to do nothing.’ Congratulations [to Holliston] on your MCAS stance! The policy makers in [community name deleted] haven’t a clue regarding what’s involved in the testing process: computers for all, classr…