The Big Idea Project: Fostering College Readiness
By Abner Oakes
ISA's National Director of Outreach and Engagement
What’s The Big Idea at Hudson High School of Learning Technologies?
What happens when you give senior students freedom within structure? This is the question the senior teachers posed at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. They wanted to create an innovative program to keep their students engaged and learning throughout their senior year of high school – a period notorious for the development of “senioritis.” Most importantly, they wanted to give their students an opportunity to put to use the lessons they learned in their 13 years of study – a culmination of their educational experience.
The result of their brainstorm was an independent study program called, “The Big Idea Project.” The teachers spent months building a detailed structure for the program, which is entirely competency-based, with growth measured through a competency-based rubric. In the ongoing program, students are responsible for the development of a thesis and a detailed plan of their intended study, but can choose any topic that interests them as their educational pursuit. Each student has a faculty mentor, who they meet with four times a week to discuss their independent study.
As part of the program, students submit weekly video logs, record a “TED Talk,” and complete research built on a college model. Their writing is dictated by college guidelines, and their faculty mentor encourages thesis revisions and refinement, while working with each student to ensure they are achieving their goals. The program, launched in February, has been a huge success with the students who have chosen to study topics ranging from animal behavior to fashion and entrepreneurship. The conclusion of the program is a “Gallery Walk,” where students demonstrate their learning to the community. They will be graded based on the following competencies: Communication, Understanding, Research + Analysis, Technology, Presentation, Real-World Action, Professionalism, and Statistical Application.