The ideas started gelling in 1994. Freshly armed with her degree, Jackie Burt began teaching, and the ideas flowed. Ideas, some of which would prove revolutionary, but to a new teacher seemed obvious – a teacher who didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to think outside of 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.

In 2003 Jackie returned to the classroom, and the paradigm was further distilled – because the students expressed their preferences, and because she listened. Changes were necessary; students were begging for them – and Jackie responded. The student-led approaches that would soon be Orsch were 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, a modern one room schoolhouse, opened its doors to an excited student body – small at first, but with so much enthusiasm, word spread, students continued to enroll, and additional passionate teachers joined the mission…

Orsch is an acronym for “One Room SCHoolhouse,” an unconventional acronym for an unconventional program. 🙂

Although multiage practices are fairly common, combining students of such a broad age range in one room is – well, we can’t say it’s a ‘new’ idea, but hasn’t been done in a very long time. 

Orsch was created to break the mold, to allow students to choose their own appropriate skill levels, their own areas of interests, and often their own methods of learning.

Jackie’s vision, a one room schoolhouse, was the perfect setting in which to offer students the dynamic approaches and unconventional methods they need, and it was a perfect setting in which to build a community of students who look out for each other, learn from each other, and teach each other. 

It worked!

What makes Orsch Orschy?

Several ideas embody the concept, a concept that is far from static.

Offer students 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 they do. Then, find unique and fun ideas for teaching concepts. Allow students to discover and explore. Find the best of the best approaches (and keep looking). Purposefully bring multiple approaches, because one size does not fit all. Focus on engagement – once truly intrinsically motivated, students 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 fully ready.

Encourage creativity and risk taking – America was built on this concept, but it is rare in many schools today.

What is Orsch up to now?

In 2020 – one of the silver linings of Covid – Orsch began its conversion to an online platform. Now Orsch is available with no regard to location!

Welcome to the online version of Orsch, the wonderful, modern one room schoolhouse!