The following article was published in May 2010
Something special is happening in Gunnison, CO a small town renowned for many things: a rich cowboy heritage, a mountain bike Mecca, outdoorsman’s playground, and hotbed of educational reform. Yes, educational reform.The philosophy was an inclusive one; everyone should have the opportunity to participate…
The ideas started gelling in 1994. Freshly armed with her education degree, and state certification, Jackie Burt began teaching, and the ideas flowed. Ideas, some of which would prove revolutionary, but that to a new teacher seemed obvious – a teacher that didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to think outside the box. Then the ideas were tested, in many environments.
The ideas were tested in her multiage classrooms, they were tested in traditional classrooms, and they were tested in a gifted and talented program that gave her the freedom to experiment.
When Jackie stayed home for several years to start a family, they were tested in the multitude of daytime and summer programs she ran for local children. These programs centered on engagement, a theme that would become paramount in the coming years.
During years 2003-2007 the paradigm was further distilled – because the students expressed it to her, and because she listened. The changes in the classroom were necessary, the students were begging for them – and Jackie responded. The curriculum was developed, and the mission was started – now she needed a place to allow it to happen. The philosophy was an inclusive one; everyone should have the opportunity to participate – the logical choice was of course public education. However, public institutions change slowly – sometimes too slowly, so a lab school was born.
In 2009 Orsch opened its doors to an excited student body – small at first, but with so much enthusiasm, word spread and the students continued to enroll…
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Is this why we haven’t appreciably changed education since 1950? See “A Case for Change”. What other industry has become so static and entrenched? It is broken, and Orsch offers a paradigm for repair – one that is inexpensive, effective, and scalable – a program that works in any setting.
What makes Orsch Orschy?
Several ideas embody the concept, a concept that is far from static.
Offer them a secure and safe environment – remove one of the biggest impediments to learning. Give them the freedom and independence to make choices – empower them to take ownership of their education. Encourage creativity in all that they do. Then, find the best ideas for teaching math. Find the best ideas for teaching language. Find the best of the best in existence (and keep looking). Find the best methods and bring them all together. Purposefully bring multiple approaches, because one size does not fit all. Focus on engagement – once truly intrinsically motivated they will show you what they need – listen to them. Make it fun, make it exciting, and make it multiage. Allow leadership to be a component, mentors, and mentees without regard to who is older. Allow flexible grouping, using as many different groups as necessary – don’t be bound by age (or “date of manufacturing” as Sir Ken Robinson puts it). Allow the natural windows of opportunity to let a child dive in deep when he is ready.
Encourage creativity and risk taking – America was built on this concept, but it is rare in many schools today. Finally, hold them accountable for results. Demand 100% proficiency – it is an attainable goal.
Orsch is currently operating and the results are exceptional and sudden. The follow up mission is to spread the concept everywhere – to change the way we educate our children. It is a concept whose time is now – the children want it; the country needs it.
Orsch is a paradigm, a philosophy, not a product. Distribution of our results will be via workshops, seminars, in-services, consulting with new programs, and self taught from the literature currently in development. Future plans involve development of the original Orsch Lab in Gunnison, CO.
Orsch continues to develop – it will never stop. The best approaches are dynamic and continue to improve. Business learned this years ago, it is time for education to catch up.