In the last blog post I welcomed the new EAST Core schools into the EAST family, but today I’d like to spend some time sharing what Core does, where Core can take the EAST Initiative, and how it helps our regular EAST programs.
EAST Core is a new program that the Initiative has developed over the past year that takes the best of our EAST practices and folds them into more traditional core classes (can you guess how we picked the name?). To get the program started, we decided to focus on math and science classes. Over the next few years, the EAST Core schools will change the way their students experience geometry, algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics in a much more engaging and authentic way. This year our pioneer schools are starting with geometry and biology. As a part of those classes, the students will take on robust projects that will help them better master the curricular objectives that they need to learn.
Students have done “projects” in class for a very long time (I remember doing several when I was in school), but EAST Core projects are different in several ways. One, they are not designed as an add-on at the end of a unit or chapter; they are the learning for the unit or chapter. Two, the projects use sophisticated technology to accomplish the learning goals. In EAST Core, the students are using computers and other tools to work on their projects like they might do in other classes or programs, but we add in more exciting and powerful tools (GIS, CAD, design, etc.) that allow the projects to go further than they normally do. Three (and this is a big one), the projects are authentic and not limited to simulations. When the biology students are studying the concept of an ecosystem or a watershed, they are doing projects in their ecosystem and watershed. One of the secrets to EAST’s success is that when the students develop projects, the projects are tangible and benefit someone; they are more than just “projects.” Finally, the projects build on one another as the class progresses. We have developed project series’ that tie the classes, the projects, and the overall learning together into a much richer experience than could ever be accomplished in the “normal” way.
The Initiative is very excited about EAST Core and the possibility that it holds for students, teachers, and schools. We know that when the “lesson” is more hands-on and engaging that students learn more, better, and retain that learning. EAST Core is designed to be engaging from the start and throughout the course.
In many ways EAST Core is the next step in the ideas and dreams that we have had for a very long time here at EAST. The standard EAST class is such an incredible educational environment, but we have always wanted to let that environment permeate throughout the school. I believe firmly that every school should have an EAST program and that every student should have the opportunity to make a difference in their community by finding their passion and being provided the tools to solve the problems they see. That doesn’t change with the advent of EAST Core. What does change is that now schools that have EAST programs can take that level of enthusiasm and excitement and directly port it into other classes. The really beautiful thing about the development of EAST Core is that it creates a positive feedback loop inside the school between the EAST program and EAST Core classes: the EAST program can provide support to the EAST Core classes and EAST Core projects can continue to grow and build in EAST while the science or math class moves on to the next unit.
As I said, EAST Core is the next step for the EAST Initiative. It builds on the success of the standard EAST programs. As we speak, our pioneer schools are piloting this model and we are beginning the new round of recruitment for next year’s schools. We hope to see EAST Core be adopted by more and more of our schools. The path to this right now is to plant more EAST programs and then let them develop into EAST Core schools. But it doesn’t stop there. When we get the first set of math and science classes completed we want to look both horizontally and vertically at the model. We envision adding more EAST Core classes beyond math and science. We can also see developing EAST Core materials for the middle grades. As EAST Core continues to develop and grow…as EAST continues to develop and grow, the EAST Initiative will continue to develop strategies, programs, and opportunities to meet the needs of our students. And that’s the core of everything we do.