By Courtney Dickinson
Jake, age 13, sits and experiments with circuitry and Arduino, figuring out how to connect and code in his “Robotic Bling” hands-on elective class. The 10-week course occurs once a week for 2 hours, during which he and his classmates learn circuitry, basic robotics, and microcomputing. They then use this learning to define, design, prototype and build their own tool, device, or creative endeavor which relates to a need they see or a story they care about. Best of all, the hands-on learning and creative, project-based action enables kids to use the knowledge and skills so they can make something else.
Acera functions as a “lab school” where we can invent, pilot, and improve on educational pedagogy, curriculum, and practice. We strive to cultivate curiosity and student initiative, and then develop students’ skills to be able to do or create something that authentically connects to the world outside the classroom, like:
- The middle schooler whose Passion Project is a software game she built which teaches about environmental science and climate change;
- The teacher who designs a curriculum around annotating the Constitution, and evolves the plan to include a trip for students to advocate for change at the Massachusetts State House;
- The student who has an individual learning plan built from start-of-year “readiness” assessments, enabling him to learn math, writing, reading, and social/emotional skills in a way that matches his capacities, and is not limited by age-based norms.
Cultivation of curiosity is why we hosted last week’s Innovator Symposium. The free annual event brings in scientists, tech leaders, and inventors to share what they are working on, and the issues or challenges they hope to solve. There are no assumptions about what content is “too old” or “too young” for attendees; it’s one of the many ways Acera makes science accessible, and connects people to the innovations happening in the real world.
In that same spirit, we designed Acera to function as a microcosm of what could be possible for all schools, and our AceraEI projects and campaign are bringing these alive in the world beyond our walls. We are building the partnerships to get this started, and seeking the funds to translate these novel curricula approaches – which combine creativity, science, and initiative – so we can bring them into the public and urban schools which so desperately deserve them.
Every moment at Acera is ripe with something amazing that could – and should – be hatched and shared. Join us in making this happen!