Our tour of the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII) was very interesting and I found the classroom observations thought provoking. I found the philosophy and configuration of the school to be unique from the public schools in many ways. I appreciate the small student population and high teacher-to-student ratio, and the numerous resources available to students. I think the central location of the campus is an excellent way to integrate community into day-to-day student life; the teachers promote visiting the library, the YMCA, local parks and other resources.
Although the school was small (relatively) it contained several spaces including: a sensory room, conference room, recording studio, library, makers space, quiet learning space, open/collaborative learning space etc, science lab etc. The school curriculum is based around inquiry, which promotes self-directed learning and autonomy. I appreciate this approach to learning, because of the focus on critical thought and passion-driven projects (keeps student interest in my opinion). Before visiting the PSII campus I didn’t know too much about the school structure and mission. I think it is an excellent option for a diverse group of learners, particularly self-motivated students and students who struggle with anxiety. I also wonder if this school structure would be complementary for youth with ADD/ADHD, because of the flexible curriculum and timeline. I have a brother with ADHD who struggled with the rigid structure of the public school system; He is incredibly intelligent and passionate about several topics, which could have been easily incorporated into the curriculum at PSII through the inquiry and project-based learning model. Furthermore, the students can present their inquiry-based learning findings and teachers may use this as a formative or summative assessment of learning. I perceive the inquiry model as a great opportunity for students with ADD/ADHD to explore their passions and thrive through a more flexible approach.
From my perspective I would miss the on-site gymnasium and opportunity to play team sports, since the school population is so low. Additionally, the school doesn’t have its own field or green space. I recognize that there are nearby parks, but these are not accessible without walking through busy downtown streets. Additionally, I missed having a space for musical instruments. I love the recording space, but there was no communal instrument space. These criticisms reflect my personal preference, but I still think this school provides a great opportunity for many learners. I don’t think I would have wanted to attend PSII as a high school student, because I am an extrovert and I thrived in a larger group of students, and I am more extrinsically motivated.
Here is a Ted Talk by Lead Educator at PSII Jeff Hopkins