UP for Learning is an organization that helps educational institutions across the country fully engage students in their own learning through a research-based model that focuses on deepening youth-adult partnerships in schools. I had an amazing opportunity today at the Vermont Statehouse to witness how Up For Learning engaged with students to create a song about Act 77 which mandated personalized learning in Vermont schools.
Their work extended beyond the song writing collaboration and involved the creation of a music video called "Our Time". This morning, they presented their work to the House Education Committee. As part of her testimony, high school junior Dorothy said "I was looking for meaning in my education, and I wanted to show what my education meant to me." The creation of this song was a perfect example of students finding meaning in their education and Dorothy and the others were able to convey through song what education meant to them. Hearing them speak about the importance of having agency at their schools was a special kind of inspiration.
In general, seeing youth in the Statehouse testifying (and not just touring the building) to a legislative committee, is a heartening experience. It makes sense that students would be testifying in front of the education committee. It strikes me now that all committees should hear from youth on every issue.
After all, what’s the point of creating laws and regulations if they aren't in service of the next generation and those to come?
Today was beautiful because a state embraced a group of students who collaboratively created a piece of art declaring their need to be coauthors of their education. This may sound like a no brainer or like its not a big deal but when you think about the old paradigm - that is still present across most of the country - where students are passive participants in a prescribed plan designed to mold them to a set of societal expectations that don't honor their individuality or create a supportive community in which they can grow. So...it is a big deal.
This is an absolutely critical moment. We can't afford to continue to have stagnated systems in a hyper connected, rapidly changing world. Today, I witnessed a brilliant example of what learner centered, open-walled and socially embedded education looks like. It is possible. This is not just an isolated incident in a small progressive state.
This was a glimpse at a larger paradigm shift that is taking place across the country that has the potential to radically improve the engagement of our citizens and our ability to tackle global, complex problems because graduates of our schools will have had the experience of practicing locally through personally relevant projects.