#5: Middle | Micro | Maker

“The
Workshop is a middle | micro | maker school for diverse students and
families in Brooklyn, New York.” We say that a lot, but what does it
mean, exactly? Below, Andrew describes the four key design elements of
The Workshop. What are they? And why do they matter?


I’ll
admit: I’m a bit of a nerd. My favorite thing in the world to do is to
read a really good book. Or having a really deep conversation with a
friend. Honestly, if I’m watching YouTube, I’m likely learning how to
build or code or fix something. Oh — and I love research. Like, I think a
lot about research in education.

Too
often, educators ignore best practice research when they develop
guidelines for school culture or classroom instruction. We generally
privilege things that we’ve seen because, well, we’ve seen them before.
Sir Ken Robinson explains, “Schools are organized the way they are
because they always have been, not because they must be.”

That’s
a problem! At The Workshop, we believe it’s important to learn from the
most current, the most reliable, and the most significant research in
our field. Because the very best research often helps give us the very
best ideas. And, believe it or not, there’s really great research that
supports really innovative ideas.

I’ve
been told that research might not resonate with parents, but I want to
be honest: every aspect of our school is rooted in research, practice,
and theory in education and early adolescent development. Each of our
core elements is specifically designed to target students’ natural
abilities and challenges.

Why middle?

There’s
a significant drop in student achievement in middle school. On average,
students in 8th grades score roughly 10% below their scores in 5th
grade.

And middle school matters. Research explains
that student performance in middle school has a more significant impact
on forward academic achievement than “anything that happens
academically in high school.”

Why micro?

Early
adolescents struggle to understand and process new beliefs, new
experiences, and new feelings. A small, intimate community can help
support (and challenge) our children to be more curious, more confident,
and more resilient.

Because
small schools dramatically increase strengths and supports for
students. In fact, research explains that the impact of small schools is
“particularly important in the middle grades” when students struggle to
understand more challenging academic content and navigate more
complicated social relationships.

Why maker?

Entering 9th grade, more than 60% of students hold highly negative feelings towards
school. Students describe school instruction as “boring”, “monotonous”,
and “repetitive”, and they complain that academic learning does not
advance “real-life” abilities or skills.

Active,
engaged students are significantly more likely to learn challenging
content and skills. Malcolm Gladwell explains: “Much of what we are told
we simply don’t remember.” Maker learning is an active, hands-on
approach to education that helps students acquire (and retain) advanced
academic skills.

Why magnet?

New
York City schools are heavily segregated by race and socioeconomic
class. In fact, a recent study found that New York City has the “highest concentration in intensely segregated schools” in the United States.

However, an integrated school isn’t just the right thing to do. Research demonstrates that diverse social groups are more accurate, more creative, and more productive.

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