Imagine the impact on your child if he or she were given an authentic, real-world problem to tackle with one week of uninterrupted school time collaborating with peers and learning from outside experts. These are the goals Park School’s Institute for Transformative Education (PSite) strives to reach, under the leadership of Kimberly Formisano and Elaine Hamilton. Kimberly and Elaine want Park students to strengthen their aptitudes for critical thinking, decision-making, collaboration, and creative expression. Throughout a PSite week, students feel a sense of excitement and of accomplishment as they create innovative solutions to authentic problems.
PSite launched pilot programs for second and fifth grades in 2014 with each grade participating week-long sessions. Second graders strengthened their existing partnership with residents at a local senior living facility with the design process to target needed improvements for those residents. Students incorporated the residents’ wishes to improve an aspect of one resident’s life. Fifth graders began their immigration unit with challenging questions such as, “How can we help majority cultures avoid stereotyping minority cultures with a single story?” Grade V students used interactive ways to retell immigration stories of Park parents. In 2015, the fourth grade PSite experience focused on learning more about green initiatives at Park, about what area experts do to advance sustainability goals, and about the design process to target a challenge for Park School. Throughout each PSite week, the experiences of students in the three grade levels were shaped by outside experts.
In addition to providing students with an opportunity to learn in innovative ways, PSite provides grade levels of Park teachers to innovate concurrently. Kimberly and Elaine believe the opportunities for PSite to transform how Park students and teachers think and learn are nearly limitless.