- Digital literacy: Evaluating, defining and assembling digital information.
- Media literacy: Recognizing bias and generating their own media to describe what they learned and believe.
- Global literacy: Being able to see the world through a recognition of cultural diversity, and being able to acknowledge and respond to global issues.
The ChallengeOne example of how this personalized curriculum rolls out in practical terms is the “Challenge” course. As an example, one year students were challenged to examine and research the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (an international framework for ending poverty, alongside principles of environmental sustainability.) Students selected their own project areas under broad themes such as poverty, hunger, health, education, clean water and climate action. Teachers then worked with individual students, helping them to understand the complexity of the issue, and advising them to perhaps review the number of perspectives at play. Students were then challenged to develop presentations that delved deep into the data and recommending actions within both their local as well as global communities. Students were additionally encouraged to connect their research to potential career and entrepreneurial opportunities. In such an environment students become driven by passion; they are free to choose whichever path they choose within the broader subject framework.
Fresh DesignOne of the hallmarks of the Vista approach to personalization was the use of what the school calls “houses”; a way to organize students that lends itself to more organic, direct and personalized instruction, as opposed to bell-time schedules. Students, as well as teachers, at Vista are organized into six “houses”, with each “house” having 130 to 140 students alongside an interdisciplinary team of five teachers, who then cover the core academic subject areas for each grade. Teachers then work as a team to develop weekly plans using the available 240 minutes per day. The benefits of this system were almost immediately obvious:
- Within an enormous school population the “houses” create a school-within-a-school atmosphere, allowing for greater connection and a feeling of safety and immediacy.
- Teachers found themselves with four hours of planning time per week, in concert with a close-knit team who understood that particular student population’s learning needs
- Interdisciplinary lesson planning became a powerful way that teachers could address their subjects
- Teachers incorporate the Habits of Mind framework into their work and create space and structure for students to understand and improve their responses to challenges.
- To improve school culture and climate, Vista has implemented a restorative-justice practice, alongside intensive monthly professional development inculcating the principles of restorative justice into the school’s DNA.
- Parents and guardians participate in mini-sessions on topics such as Habits of Mind, Restorative Practices, Digital Safety, Campus Resources,Personalized Learning, Clubs/Sports and more.
- Part of the curriculum is “Wellness” a course focused on 9th graders. It covers character development, health and wellness, “power skills” (sometimes referred to as “soft skills”) and “Vista Pride,” the school’s vision for a distinctive way to relate to the local, national and global community.