The private Logan School for Creative Learning in Denver prides itself on its progressive approach to education. For the past 36 years, it has educated gifted children, kindergarten through eighth grade, allowing them to identify their own topics for in-depth study, and helping them make the city their classroom.
Head of School Markus Hunt describes Logan as “almost like graduate school for children.”
Five Logan teachers are dedicated solely to helping students connect to “primary sources” in the Denver metro area, for individualized field trips directly related to kids’ units of study.
A video on the Logan website offers one example: two five-year-old boys and a teacher visiting a house under construction to see how plumbing pipes are installed.
At its core, Logan is all about whole education. The school’s approach is to engage students through their own, self-identified interests and passions.
“It’s an embarrassingly simple concept,” Hunt said. “It’s the execution that trips people up.”
Hunt explained it this way: at home, your toddler loves to beat on pots and pans with a metal spoon. It’s developmentally appropriate. It teaches them about making sounds. It develops fine and gross motor skills. And this simple activity can hold a toddler’s interest for far longer than many more intricate activities.
The din may test a parent’s patience, but it obviously does something for the kid, so most parents allow or encourage the activity.
In the same way, Hunt said, at Logan, adults trust each kid to identify learning opportunities that engage him or her. Not only does this help ensure that the child will develop a love of learning. It also demonstrates trust in the child’s judgment.
A middle-school age boy may develop a passion for skateboarding, Hunt said. Logan staff will help him visit a skate shop, to learn how boards are assembled and prepared; arrange a meeting with a skate pro, and ultimately, to build his own board in the school’s large, well-equipped shop.
Or, partway through studying skateboards, the student might get interested in head injuries caused by skateboarding. He might veer into neurology, traffic issues, the construction of safe helmets, or any number of other topics.
In a classroom with 22 students and 11 teachers, between two-thirds and three-quarters of class time is devoted to 22 individual projects. “Obviously, the teachers have to know the students really, really well,” Hunt.
Visit on any given day and you may see, in the same classroom, one student doing web research on terrorism, and another working with a teacher to arrange a visit to the city health department as part of her unit on epidemiology.
There are no tests or grades at Logan, but despite the lack of traditional measurement, students thrive there. When they hit high school, Hunt said, “what we hear from teachers there is that our kids don’t sit back. They are actively engaged in their learning. First they figure out what an A or a B is, then they have to figure out how to learn in that very different environment.”
Unlike many more traditional schools, Logan does not feature a dedicated social-emotional learning approach. Rather, Hunt said, allowing students to chart their own course demonstrates to them that adults respect and honor their thought processes. This, in turn, builds a close-knit, caring community, where kids feel “valued and validated.”
“I believe that our approach can work for every child, but not for every teacher,” Hunt said.