Some assembly required

Superintendent, USD 410

“Some assembly required.”

When I read that on the side of a package some time ago, I asked myself, “How much assembly are we talking? A few minutes? A couple of hours? A day?”

I like putting things together, but let’s be honest, I sometimes prefer someone else putting it together for me. It’s easier that way. We all understand the benefits of doing something ourselves even if we like the convenience of having it done by another.

Take city driving, for example. Have you ever been a passenger on a bus or taxi in a big city and had no idea which direction you were going or what part of the city you were in? If you were driving yourself, you would likely understand the lay of the land much better. Learning in schools is no different. Learning by doing is a great way for our kids to master concepts and skills that otherwise aren’t attainable.

Learning by doing and project-based learning are back in the forefront of schools in Kansas thanks to newly adopted Kansas College and Career Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Career and Technical Education Pathways. These initiatives allow for — and even encourage — a much deeper understanding of the content. More and more often, our teachers are using projects to reinforce what our kids are expected to know and be able to do. What a wonderful change for education.

USD 410 is embracing this change, and in many respects is leading this change across Kansas. Hillsboro High School offers 20 approved pathways in career and technical education. This is one of the highest offerings in the state, regardless of the size of school.

Next fall, we will be the first school district to fully implement Project Lead the Way (PLTW) which is a project based curriculum focusing on the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Most of our pathway and PLTW courses are face-to-face offerings, but more and more are being offered online through our TEEN network. This combination of face-to-face and online learning not only allows us to offer more courses for our students but is in itself “learning by doing” because we now live in a world where online learning is a required skill.

Learning by doing is a great way to master skills. Yes, there will be some assembly required. In fact, we embrace the challenges of assembly because of the significance it has on our creativity, innovation, collaboration, and problem solving skills. If we are successful — and I’m convinced our future depends on it — “Some Assembly Required” will have a completely different meaning to the current and future graduates of our schools.

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