Thursday, February 12, 2015

Discover EPiC - Re-Imagine Education

Personalized Learning model by Michelle Schmitz, Principal and Susan Maynor, Learning Coach

EPiC Elementary in Liberty Public Schools, Missouri is an innovative, personalized, project-based learning community infused with technology designed to INSPIRE learners to be CREATIVE and THINK BIG! Learners use REAL tools and REAL materials to collaboratively construct REAL world applications of their knowledge. Our learning environment focuses on three areas for all learners: Equipping Learners, Engaging Communities, and Empowering Creativity.

Empower Creativity
EPIC provides a learning environment where students discover, embrace, and integrate authentic learning experiences to create and design real-world applications of their knowledge.  
Equip Students
EPIC provides a learning environment through a personalized education where learners become collaborators, critical and creative thinkers, and communicators.

Engage Communities
EPIC provides a learning environment where learners, families, educators, and experts are fully engaged in authentic learning experiences designed to inspire kids.

Empowering Creativity with Real Tools
We believe that learning happens all the time, anywhere. EPiC’s learning environment includes 1:1 iPads, flexible learning spaces, community partnerships, personalized learning paths, and real world work. To deepen that experience for all learners, each studio has created a unique learning lens within our larger learning community.
Studio K: We are Builders
Studio 1: We are Leaders
Studio 2: We are Storytellers
Studio 3: We are Connectors
Studio 4: We are Changemakers
Studio 5: We are Designers
It is our goal for all learners to become expert learners, therefore as a part of this community, they have the opportunity to be active in their own learning process. Children seek to understand how they learn best and begin to design own learning opportunities, scaffolding experiences to provide purpose and drive for learning.

Our Story

In the spring of 2013, Liberty Public Schools began exploring possibilities for re-imagining education. Creativity is a huge driving force in the economics of the future, but where in our current educational system, are we allowing the time and space for creativity? When we walked into our classrooms, did we see a difference between the 1980’s and today’s classroom? Were our learners “dialing down” when they entered school? And if creativity really is a key driver of the economy, what skills do our learners need to be successful? We formed a 20/20 Vision Innovations Team, comprised of administrators, teachers, parents, and board members to begin seeking answers to these questions. We crossed the country and visited highly successful, innovative schools. We tapped into experts, read research and investigated different school models, ultimately discovering effective environments that empowered learners to learn. Real tools. Authentic audiences. Projects with meaning. Personalized learning. As our team began to assimilate what we had learned, we began to reimagine education for our students in Liberty. How could we step outside the box and incorporate our new learning to create a different kind of school?
"Every Person Inspired to Create, hence the acronym EPiC, was born. EPiC is not just a school, but rather an idea, a philosophy, a journey for every person. So what does that look like in a school? How will we infuse this idea into each and every day? We believe that children learn in different ways and at different paces. Moreover, we also believe it is essential that all our learners are engaged at a deep level of learning. And we know that learning becomes real when students are able to take their learning beyond the classroom walls and engage with parents and community experts.
EPiC re-imagines education by encouraging the in-depth exploration of topics as students participate in the adventures of learning. Our learners apply their new knowledge by creating and exhibiting their own learning to multiple audiences. Learners engage in daily personalized learning--learning at their own level, leveraging the power of quality adaptive technology platforms and learner voice and choice. Through project-based learning and dynamic teacher instruction, EPiC learners will explore real challenges and create solutions and share in front of authentic audiences.

Our Personalized Learning Model
Epic Elementary is on a journey to inspire change in education, encouraging educators to re-think, re-frame and re-imagine education. The teachers and learners are a catalyst to help people SEE that change is GOOD. Matching the learners experience to the outside world is necessary and ENGAGING the learner is IMPERATIVE! We believe we can no longer deliver education the same way that we did yesterday, as learners need to experience their learning at their own pace with their talents. Isn’t that life? Don’t we walk through experiences everyday, solving challenges using our own strengths? For years, we made students sit in a seat and use one model to solve fake challenges. Does this set our learners up for success? If we are truly preparing our learners to be successful in life for now and the future, we need to allow them to develop their strengths in a personalized way.
As we harness the power of technology in a learner-facilitated environment, personalized learning permeates our everyday. Developing a personalized mindset is definitely a learning continuum for our lead learners at EPiC. We know that personalized environment is optimal for our learners; we are still growing as lead learners in that direction. Depending on the time of the day and the content, you can see personalization, differentiation and individualization. Our school is becoming a transformative plac for both the teacher and the learners. As learners are able to participate in more personalized learning opportunities, they desire to have a more innovative personalized learning environment. The learners experience success and are able to show their learning through their strengths.

First Grade Learners Designing a Health Fair website
Wow moments are not landmarks that define our journey but are built into every moment of everyday. Wow moments are all the time and are transformative for both teachers and learners. A wow moment is when any student “can.” If we give children the opportunities to show learning through their strength area, the growth is more authentic and runs deeper than a prescribed assessment.

Learners are able to talk using academic and expert vocabulary, taking information and transforming it in more complex ways in the context of the real world. Learners of all levels are no longer isolated or defined by their inefficiencies or efficiencies, but rather are able to follow personalized pathways for learning.
Recently, several of our learners wanted to create a short film for the White House Film Festival. Working as a team, facilitated by a teacher, learners wrote, directed and edited a short film, all while tapping into their own individual strengths, infusing expert cinematic techniques and experiencing an authentic production process.

We have the ability to transform education as we know it, with every person who is a part of EPiC. We are changing mindsets. Our learners embrace the growth mindset -- "I can do it! There is no ceiling on my learning. I can show my learning in a way that is best for me."


Dr. Michelle Schmitz is a passionate elementary principal who is re-imagining and rethinking education to meet the needs of today’s learner.  Dr. Schmitz has been a teacher for 10 years and an administrator for 10 years.  Dr. Schmitz has earned her advanced degrees at University of St. Louis.  

Twitter: @mschmitz_1

Susan Maynor is a visual storyteller, design enthusiast, and creativity devotee on a quest to rethink education for all learners. She has taught elementary through high school, been a curriculum consultant, and produced various media for small companies. She currently serves as the blended learning coach for EPiC Elementary.

Twitter: @shmaynor

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