Spend your in-school time exploring things you're interested in, and then do something with what you learned

Projects are the base of almost all academic work at Big Picture Schools. The cliche ‘they come in all shapes and sizes’ is the tip of the iceberg here. Some students are working on five simultaneously, some do ten total over the course of three months, some do one large one for two months. The parameters are only ‘are you interested in it, is it safe enough that no one is going to get hurt/in trouble, can you demonstrate learning through it?’. The last part is often the most difficult for students and advisors. In a system that is based on choice, exploration, and experts, how do you navigate mandating a product? Navigating it poorly means students thinking of the word ‘projects’ like they think of the word ‘worksheets’, by November. Which usually ends up in a whole bunch of inauthentic work, and a day-to-day life that doesn’t feel much different than traditional school.

Making it through successfully looks like students being excited for what they’re working on. Advisors and students have to get really good at balancing free-form exploration, project planning, honest conversations about how to scaffold it all, and the vulnerability it takes to allow yourself to be excited about something. It’s important to note here that it will be messy, difficult, awkward, at the start. When things are messy, students and advisors double down and recommit to making projects shine.

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Final Posted February 2, 2018

Crash Labs

Crash Labs are 1-2 week hands-on sessions that focus on a particular skill or knowledge set that students may apply to current or future projects. These offerings might focus on how to do something (e.g., use the laser cutter) or on a disciplinary concept (e.g., understanding velocity).

Design Labs

D-Labs are collaborative inquiries that take place over the course of 3-4 weeks. 101 and 201 students work in small teams and as a larger group (of up to 30 or so students) to pursue an inquiry and complete a project.