(Photo by Tony Abraham)
Mortician. Astrophysicist. Hair stylist. Computer programmer. Plumber. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of variance in the career paths Patricia Hunter’s 264 new students are telling her they’d like to explore.
At the Delaware Met, Hunter and her team of 20 advisers will be able to cater to each students’ career goals by personalizing their education. The model is called “Big Picture Learning,” and for lack of a better analogy, it’s kind of like Build-A-Bear for a high school education.
“Everybody talks about personalized learning, but nobody does it,” said Hunter, who came on as Delaware Met’s Head of School in February. “It’s what everybody wants to do everywhere, but nobody actually does it.” That will change for Wilmington when the charter school opens its doors at the beginning of the school year in August.
Located at 920 N. French St. inside the skeleton of an old training facility for Bank of America employees, the space is still undergoing renovations to better adopt an open learning environment. Not only is the educational platform structured to stimulate collaboration and the sharing of ideas between students, but the physical open spaces will promote it as well.
Luckily for Delaware Met students, the building already sports a basketball court where physical education classes will be held. That type of space is a huge asset — many charter schools don’t have gym access. (Speaking of sports, the school’s logo and mascot is being designed locally by Nick Matarese of The Barn, which is based out of coIN Loft.) Providing physical education and athletics is one way in which the Delaware Met is just a little different.
Considering their lesson plans are tailored specifically towards the field they want to pursue upon graduation, students are responsible for owning their education. But the burden isn’t completely upon them. The school partners with businesses and organizations to provide the students with internships throughout their entire high school experience.
At least two times a week, every student will be gaining real-world experience at an internship. For the rest of the week, each student will participate in those core high school subjects — math, English, sciences, history — but in a way that supports their desired career path.
And when a carpenter suddenly decides he or she wants to put down the saw, pick up a pen and become a poet? Well, the model allows them to do that.
But a model like “Big Picture Learning,” which is so far removed from the regiment of a classic education, cannot exist without a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, only about 50 schools across the country are founded on Big Picture Learning.
“We’re a risk,” said Hunter. “A very, very positive risk. People want to see something concrete. These students are our early adopters.”