A lot of schools these days pay lip service the idea of personalized learning, meaning every student should have the opportunity to chart his or her own educational course, within reasonable limits.
MUSE School lives into authentic personalized learning every day. One of the school’s five pillars – core academics – is crafted by and for each student, based on his or her passions.
Passion-Based Learning at Muse
“When you start with the question ‘what are your passions?’ you’re giving students a voice in their learning versus what you get in a traditional school, which is ‘read this book, memorize these things, fit into this box’” said MUSE School director Jeff King.
Passion-based learning means a student can decide, for example, to dive deep into studying wolves, for a few weeks, or if the passion takes tangents, for a year or more.
And what of kids who say they have no passion they can identify? It’s all in how you approach it, King said.
“If a kid says they have no passions, we tell them to talk to their peers,” King said. “That tends to bring it out. What we’ve found is kids feel they’ve never had an adult really listen to them. They have passions but they are acculturated to not being listened to. But talking to their peers bring those passions out. Is it soccer? Great! Study soccer.”
Culminations at Muse
Twice each year, MUSE students present what the school calls Culminations, a day when they have a chance to offer a presentation of their learning. On a blustery January day, MUSE 7th graders packed into a classroom, where parents, staff, and visitors circulated through exhibits as if in an interactive museum.
One girl offered delectable Italian food she had learned to cook by working with a renowned chef. Another girl showed off rabbits she was raising. And a boy who does BMX bike racing showed how he had taken apart a bike, learned about all its components, and put it back together.
It’s easy to get MUSE kids to talk about their passions. Take Rio, for example. A willowy ninth-grader, he discovered a passion for cooking. He was able to do an internship at a two-star Michelin restaurant, where he learned from a master chef.
For his culmination, Rio prepared a 10-course meal for a group of friends and family. Courses included lobster medallions in a grapefruit ceviche, a gorgonzola mousse, and poached pears.
“I can learn about a lot of different subjects through cooking,” he said. “It’s what I definitely want to keep pursuing.”
Then there’s Isaac, a senior, whose passion is politics. He took an international relations course at a local community college, and interned with State Senator Henry Stern. He said is ultimate goal is running for office.
“What he really wants is to be the first Latino president of the United States,” MUSE middle and high school director Dennis Campbell said.