On May 4-6, 2014 the PFFS-Downtown teaching team (Joe Boehm, et al) visited MC² STEM High School in Cleveland, OH to learn first hand how that ‘model school’ delivers interdisciplinary STEM curriculum to students in three locations (9th grade at the Great Lakes Science Center on Lake Erie, 10th grade at GE’s Lighting Headquarters in Nela Park, and 11th/12th grade at Cleveland State University). The CITY Center for Collaborative Learning in Tucson will also serve students in three different small schools at multiple locations (PFFS-University, PFFS-Downtown, and City High School). PFFS-Downtown, opening as a full-immersion STEM middle school on 7/31/14, will be the vanguard of this 6-12 Complex – leading by example the other two schools into full STEM immersion.
The PFFS-Downtown team arrived in Cleveland Sunday evening on 5/4 and met with MC² Head of School, Jeff McClellan for more than 2 hours. He explained the 4-phase curriculum development model they use at their school which has much in common with the ‘planning backwards’ model used by Paulo Freire Freedom School and City High School. However at MC² they develop Capstone units of instruction that encompass an entire quarter and which involve all students and all content disciplines at the school site. Each Capstone includes multiple interdisciplinary projects and each project includes student performance outcomes that students must complete successfully. These performances are tracked carefully for each student and when a student does not demonstrate proficiency in a particular performance outcome they are given other opportunities to learn the objective and demonstrate learning.
The team spent the next day and a half visiting the three school sites, observing classrooms, and speaking with students and teachers about their school. On Monday 5/5 they spent the morning at the Great Lakes Science Center, home to MC²’s 9th grade. In the afternoon they visited the 10th grade site at General Electric’s world lighting headquarters. On Tuesday 5/6 they spent the morning at Cleveland State University where the 11th/12th grades are housed in the center of the campus. ‘Housed’ is a misnomer for many of MC²’s 11th and 12th graders who take classes at CSU and use the MC² space more as a refuge to come back to for support and guidance and a quiet place to complete their work.
At each of the three MC² sites is an MIT ‘Fab Lab’. These design/fabrication spaces are an integral part of MC²’s project-based learning. The labs are equipped with 3-D and laser printers, laithes, saws, and a shop bots. Students explained to the PFFS-Downtown team how the tools are used. Plans for the building at 37 E. Pennington St. in Tucson include designs for innovative maker spaces and design labs. It is hoped that it will be the center-piece of the CITY Center for Collaborative Learning – used by students from all three schools and the public.
The PFFS-Downtown teaching team had many spirited conversations throughout their visit to MC² inspired by what they heard and saw. Thank you Jeff McClellan and all the students and staff at each of the three MC² sites for opening both your doors and your hearts to these visitors from Tucson. They know that what was learned in Cleveland will impact their development of Paulo Freire Freedom School – Downtown.