Student Voice is Student Choice
Wednesdays are all about student choice at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. That’s how Principal Wayne Bevis thinks learning should be. “We try to be student-driven, focusing on empowerment and agency of the students,” Wayne says. “That means we have to listen to what they want.”
Every Wednesday is known as “Colloquium Day.” Students take a semester-long seminar on a topic of their choice. Students not only choose their seminars but also inform course design with their suggestions and interests. Seminar topics run the gamut and have previously included courses on coding, anime, fashion design, archery and sailing. “It’s about finding opportunities for learning you wouldn’t see in a class that’s test-driven or standards-driven,” says Wayne. “It gives students chances for real-world learning that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Colloquium is also an opportunity for Lindblom students and faculty to partner with outside organizations and gain new experiences. Last year, one class partnered with Pepsi Co. They competed to design a method of delivering Gatorade in gyms to athletes. “Students went from sketching their designs out on paper, all the way to creating a prototype with our 3-D printers and presenting the prototype to executives at Pepsi.” A previous Colloquium course partnered with the Federal Reserve. Students designed a gigantic Rube-Goldberg Machine — think, the 60’s board game Mousetrap — to shred money. Through these partnerships, students gain engineering, teamwork and design skills in a fun setting.
New in the 2016-17 school year, Colloquium Days are topped off with flex periods for all students. Flex periods are like college office hours, during which students can receive extra assistance in the subject of their choice. Throughout the week, students use computers in the hallway to sign up for the classes in which they’d like extra time. Seniors also have access to a college seminar during flex periods. There, teachers assist students with filling out college and scholarship applications. In 2017, Lindblom was number one in the district for scholarship dollars. Wayne believes this is a direct result of the college seminar flex period.
Wayne runs his own flex period class to open his door for student feedback. This round-table discussion with the principal gives students a chance to go right to the top with their ideas and concerns. Wayne enjoys getting to hear from the engaged student body, but this is also a chance for him to hear from students who aren’t used to speaking up. For example, any student who doesn’t elect to sign up for a flex period is randomly placed into a class with empty seats. Wayne loves having these students assigned to his round table. ”I’m getting the kids who are probably the most checked-out, and I get to hear their voices too,” he says.
Wayne looks forward to incorporating student voice into every aspect of school programming. Students have already started to rewrite the school’s mission statement, which hasn’t been updated in 14 years. When the new statement is finalized, the school’s mission, like its programming, will truly reflect what students want from their education.