Overview of the Barrington Middle School Lighthouse Grant
Barrington Middle School (BMS) received one of three Rhode Island Office of Innovation Lighthouse School Grants in the sum of $200,000 to personalize learning for students. As a Lighthouse School, BMS will enhance its practices around personalization, while sharing those practices within and beyond the state. As such, BMS will connect the Lighthouse work with our partnership work with Northeastern University to develop transformational learning opportunities which occur at the intersection of project based learning (PBL), Deeper Learning (DL) and Experiential Learning (ExL). Our vision and mission, connected the purpose of the Lighthouse Grant, is to empower students to excel in the 21st century by providing them with opportunities to direct and take control of their own learning in meaningful real-world settings.
The components of the framework for the Lighthouse project are defined and informed by research and best practice from the field. The work and research of the Buck Institute for Education, the Hewlett Foundation, and Northeastern University have guided our grant plan. The Buck Institute defines PBL as “a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” Further BIE indicates, "PBL is an effective and enjoyable way to learn-and develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and civic life." DL is “a set of competencies students must master in order to develop a keen understanding of academic content and apply their knowledge to problems in the classroom and on the job” (Hewlett Foundation, 2013). Finally, Northeastern defines ExL as “the integration of the classroom and the real world...allowing students to transform ideas into impact and become global citizens.” Although all of these models have merit, we believe that it is at their intersection that personalized learning is optimized.
As a high-performing school, it is important that we make explicit connections between classroom learning and the application of that learning beyond the school walls. Thus, we recognize a need to strike a balance between the principles described above with our traditional educational programming. It is our responsibility to prepare our students to be contributing successful global citizens, who also have strong academic knowledge for success. We believe in addition to content, students need to be able to communicate, create, collaborate, critically think, have an academic mindset, and be reflective. Students need to see the transfer of knowledge and skills across settings and content areas. To achieve a balance between content and application, BMS will make experiential learning visible by providing guaranteed student experiential learning opportunities in all grades and classrooms, so that students can demonstrate and apply their understanding of core academic content through novel, real-world experiences.
Funding from this grant will allow us to create these opportunities and curricular connections, while providing teachers with the coaching and supports necessary for such project based learning. Importantly, through our visioning sessions with Frank Locker, as we designed the new middle school, all stakeholders agreed that project based learning should be central to the design and function of the school. The Lighthouse Grant will allow us to achieve the transition to the new school in a way that truly empowers all students to excel in the 21st century!