Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rethinking Learning as Experiential and Learner-Focused

Ben Kestner - St. John’s SchoolAfter interviewing Melvina Kurashige, she connected us to St. John’s School in Brussels, Belgium. We were connected to Ben Kestner, Principal of the Middle School.
"What if there was a school with no homework, no tests, no grades, and you could learn what you want?"

Ben's TED Talk ( validates the reasons why we need to personalize learning. He states that "technology, school and community need to converge as ONE." He sees that learning needs to be related to the learners world where they can explore it more deeply, take action and be able to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. We could not agree more.

St. John’s International School in BrusselsBen explains that since they are in an international school with learners from 60 different countries, they needed to rethink the curriculum so their learners owned their learning. 

Learners are in a group with an advisor who they meet with three times a week. Ben shared the curriculum that is experiential, learner-focused and based on these 7 MS competencies:
  • Self-Assessor: in health, mind, spirituality and organization
  • Contributor: through empathy and understanding; making a difference to the surrounding world
  • Creator: being an innovator, designer and maker of new things
  • Communicator: with compassion through oral, written, visual, musical, non-verbal and dance.
  • Collaborator: team member, leading and negotiating, sharing
  • Explorer: showing curiosity, taking risks and experimenting
  • Thinker: creative, critical, analytical, broad minded
TedXKids at St. John’s

They came up with the 3 Big Ideas last year. For one week three times during the year, there are themes where learners self-direct their learning. In January, Grade 8 took a Journey of Discovery and were offered various workshops led by experts around these topics:

  • Creative Writing on Heroes and Villains
  • Books and films
  • Discovery Science
  • Zen cooking
  • Magical Maths
 Grade 7’s topics were around food:
  • Food tech
  • Cooking
  • Fair or unfair trade
  • Food science

Video trailer of Big Ideas Week 2: Water 

Ben will be moving to the United States soon to start an experiential school in Montana where it will be an entirely difference journey. Get a preview of his new adventure here: We will be following and sharing Ben's journey and the learners in this new school.

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