Oh, the joy I experienced at the Pathways High mid-year Student Exhibition! It was a boundless joy that sprints up and bowls you over like an exuberant puppy intent on licking your face. To a person, every student and staff member I spoke with was bubbling over with the joy that accompanies significant learning and accomplishment. I happily soaked in their positive energy.
Upon reflection, I was struck by the palpable difference between accomplishments rooted in ownership as opposed to compliance. You can comply someone to show up, sit quietly, and execute tasks -- the hallmark of most well-regarded schools. However, you cannot comply someone to own their learning, to go above and beyond, or be joyful. I witnessed the sheer joy derived from pursuing one’s passions and working hard to overcome obstacles that arise along the way. It was evident from my discussions with students that they viewed their work as having a meaningful purpose beyond school and achieving a good grade. Furthermore, the students’ ownership of their learning was a significant source of their joy.
For instance, Jason, a junior, beamed with pride when he showed me how he had built a video gaming computer with a $1200 investment in parts purchased with his own money. When I asked him about the biggest challenge of his project he said wiring the computer was very difficult because the instruction manual was confusing. He wasn’t deterred by this obstacle, but instead turned to YouTube videos for help. Also, his Computer Programming teacher, Chris Kjaer, shared with me later that Jason had texted Chris on MLK Day, a school holiday, asking him to open school so he could work on his project. If that’s not passion driving learning, I don’t know what is.
Anisha, a sophomore, presented an engaging 3D video game she coded using the Unity game development platform and C# programming language. This project was the first time Anisha had ever written a computer program and she was thrilled with the positive reactions she received from those who played the game during Exhibition.
Keone, a junior, spoke with enthusiasm about his Advanced Math Studio seminar where he could further his knowledge of physics by describing, in essay format, the derivation of kinematic equations. For those, like me, lacking a strong knowledge of physics or needing a refresher, kinematic equations are used to calculate various aspects of motion such as velocity, acceleration, displacement, and time. The equations may have been a bit lost on me, but his passion for math and physics was not.
Another student, Eli, a sophomore, was awed by the impact his art work had on those viewing it during Exhibition. He commented that he couldn’t believe his Zentangle, inspired by his life experiences, brought an Exhibition guest to tears. The buzz of accomplishment from the public display of one’s work is powerful and heady stuff. It leaves students and staff aspiring to new heights. It’s the rocket fuel that unleashes all learners’ potential.
After Exhibition had officially ended and the staff started putting the rooms back together, Kyla, a freshman came running up to me to ask if she could show me her theater seminar project. She was exuberant as she presented her set designs for a new play she was proposing based on her favorite book. I wanted to bottle up her enthusiasm for a rainy day.
Our students’ joy and pride over their work was highly contagious. I left the Pathways High Student Exhibition on cloud nine, excited for the year-end Exhibition on June 9, 2020. I can’t wait to see the new heights to which our students will take their learning!
The joy of learning and accomplishment is thriving at Pathways High. Will you join us?