#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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *