Since Bay’s first fall in 2004, an innovative schedule has driven the student experience. Our trimester block schedule allowed students to learn in long blocks, wrestling deeply with big ideas while focusing on fewer courses at a time than the typical school. And, every schedule has its downsides: we’ve noticed over the years that 12-week trimesters fly by, leaving teachers and students feeling rushed when it comes to building relationships and mastering tough concepts while creating multiple transitions among the three terms. Bay’s faculty and staff asked how we could, as a school, continue to innovate around the containers of time and academic departments to further build learning opportunities for students in accordance with the educational watchwords of the 21st century: integrated, authentic, innovative, and flexible. Some of our primary goals included increasing opportunities for experiential, project-based, and interdisciplinary learning while maintaining our strengths in the acquisition of foundational skills, creating more flexible notions of “class time”, cultivating a less rushed pace to the year, and providing greater continuity of math and world language learning.
Through substantial research, input from parents and students, and review of schedule models from around the country, a committee of faculty, staff, and administrators produced literally dozens of drafts, working to maintain key non-negotiables while creating more expansive blocks of time for true 21st century learning including time for extended work off-campus, opportunities to engage with experts in a given field, and the luxury of focusing on extended projects.
Beginning in the Fall of 2018, Immersive terms, will occur twice per year for three weeks at a time. In each of these three-week terms, one in January and one in late-May/early-June, students will take a single academic course for a grade and credit, all day every day for three weeks. Reminiscent of a “J-term” at colleges, these courses will take the best of Intersession and our academic classes, and merge the two together. We’re envisioning a host of possibilities: perhaps an interdisciplinary 10th-grade Humanities/Science course where students learn about both the science of food production as well as the cultural complexities of immigration and migrant labor, and then spend a week on working farms. Or perhaps a 9th-grade STEM course that weaves together computer science, math, physics, and engineering into a three-week design sprint with guest designers, engineers, and scientists. Or a three-week intensive arts experience where students live the life of an artist, truly immersed in their work. Perhaps an 11th- and 12th-grade elective course on homelessness, where students spend every morning in the classroom learning about the economics and sociology of the problem and every afternoon at a mini-internship with an organization serving the homeless. This is real, authentic, skill-based, meaningful learning - it’s “so Bay”. And these immersive terms will allow us to complete it within an academic context. It’s important to note that one can’t just take any Bay course, like Math 2b, and drop it into an Immersive term; these courses will be custom-designed by our teachers from the ground up to make the most of rich learning opportunities both on and off campus.
While Immersives will provide an exceptional, unique opportunity for our high school students to dive deeply into their classes, we’ve also integrated “Project Weeks” four times per year. These weeks would divert from the standard schedule by giving each class a full half-day period over the course of a week. We’re confident that the Immersive terms and the Project Weeks will allow our teachers to continue innovating in order to provide students with authentic, flexible, and integrated learning experiences. It’s in-depth activities like these that help students build the skills and habits of mind necessary for solving the problems of the future and excelling in careers unimaginable even a few years ago.