“When will we ever use this stuff, anyway?” is a common question in high schools around the country. But at The Winchendon School, we focus on innovation, relevance, and inquiry, students spend the school year applying concepts outside of the classroom, connecting with the greater community, and working to find the root causes and then solving real-world issues.
Why does this matter? By 2030, robots could replace 800 million jobs (source: McKinsey Global Institute). Jack Ma, the founder of China’s Alibaba Group thinks, “If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now, we’re going to be in trouble,” He continues, “The knowledge-based approach of 200 years ago, would fail our kids, who would never be able to compete with machines. Children should be taught “soft skills” like independent thinking, values, and team-work,” he said.
Independent, critical thinking, values, and the ability to work collaboratively makes for an engaging learning environment. When students are engaged, academics have relevance. When academics have relevance to students, their inquiries will lead to solving real-world issues. What types of real-world issues will they solve? This year, TWS student Alexi M.’19, developed an internship at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to learn more about what it takes to have a career in space.
Alexi worked in the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) located in Prescott, Arizona. At LIGO Alexi conducted research into Gravitational Waves. During her time she connected with students and professors enabling her to expand her research. Her expanded research included learning about methods for collecting data for supernovae. She met other students passionate about space exploration and learned there’s not just one path into space. Alexi attended personal lectures on special relativity and then joined in afternoon class lecture on the physics of fluids in space. Invited to continue weekly research and to attend a future LIGO conference, Alexi summed up her experience as enabling her “to be even more passionate with learning about space and being prepared to meet new people and put myself out of my comfort zone to experience new things. The lessons and information that I have learned, will carry me through life and into future opportunities.”
At TWS, opportunities in internships, Service-Learning, and ColLABs are student-centered. We believe that when students direct their learning toward areas of interest, their education has meaning and purpose and we fully expect to see Alexi reach the stars!