By Andy Shaw, Dean of Curriculum and Innovation
After years of planning and development, Bay will launch our new schedule and curriculum this coming September, leveraging the best of our approach to education — hands-on and minds-on, real-world focused, interdisciplinary, and dynamic — within a structure that uses classroom time in groundbreaking and varied ways.
Most of the school year will be organized into semester-long terms featuring a rotating schedule of 80-minute classes. Bay was one of the area’s leaders in teaching in long-block classes: we’ve been doing it for 14 years now and know how to use those blocks the best of our advantage. Our shift to a semester schedule will allow a bit more spacing between class meetings, so students have more time to process and integrate skills. Moving from our current trimester structure to a semester will also mean that students have more calendar time in a given course: time to build strong relationships with teachers, to work through challenging concepts, and to demonstrate mastery of material. We were also able to add some nice new touches to our daily/weekly schedule as we revised things — a long, common lunch period for all students and teachers every day, earlier dismissals a few days per week, club time separate from lunch — all of which will support our strong community and our commitment to balance in students’ lives.
Our new schedule will bring the groundbreaking notion of Immersive terms to the Bay Area. Many schools have an intersession week or an experiential week; these are great, but they miss the point — experiential education, field-based learning, and the escape from the classroom should be deeply integrated into the academic experience in high school, rather than thrown in as a non-academic add-on. Our Immersive terms will occur in January and in May/June, and each Immersive will serve as an academic term where students take a single credit-bearing class for three weeks. Free from the rotating schedule, teachers and students will have all day to throw themselves deeply into a project for hours at a time, to investigate a question from multiple perspectives through multiple forms of expression, and to get off campus (or out of the city or even the state) for a day or a week. We have designed a suite of new electives to take advantage of the freedom and depth of this new educational model, many of them interdisciplinary, project-based, experiential, or all of the above! Click here to learn more about Bay’s immersive offerings.
Semester terms will include their own little taste of immersive learning, in the form of Project Weeks. These weeks include a full half-day project block allocated to each rotating period – a great time for extended project work, field trips, labs, or hands-on simulations. We do a lot of these already within our 80-minute periods, but as we’ve become more innovative in our approaches to learning, we’ve found that even a block of 80-minutes can limit us. We’ll start piloting the Project Week this year, in just a few weeks; students and teachers are excited about the opportunities for deep learning that this structure will provide.
Despite great consensus that education needs to change in order to meet the demands of a rapidly-changing world, schools have a lot of trouble escaping the assembly-line models we inherited from the industrial revolution. Our school is a brave place, though; I’m tremendously proud of the work we have done in creating this new schedule and new curricular offerings. Excitement is high in the building these days, and for good reason: Bay has once again set the bar in the Bay Area. Bold, creative, and paradigm-shifting approaches to education, ones which will authentically prepare our students for the world of the future.