Transforming Renaissance Public School Academy with Learning Celebrations

Lisa Bergman

I am the Leader of a K-8 charter school academy in the middle of the lower peninsula of Michigan.  Six years ago we began a journey of multi-age, project based exploration that is not common in our part of our state. We began to explore programs that seemed to be “breaking the mold”.  Within a year we moved to a multi-age, individual focused approach where students began to loop with their teacher for two years.  We wrote units and held our first “Learning Celebration” in December of 2014.  Each student in grades K-8 displayed projects in either science or social studies.  By the 2015-16 school year we held three Learning Celebrations with students displaying both science and social studies projects.

Then the real transformations began.  Our teaching teams had confidence and were allowing more and more student led learning.  The next year saw students move from simply displaying work to performing and creating interactive presentations for audiences.  We began to offer students time to explore “Passion Projects” outside of the bounds of the traditional standards and curriculum.  We developed a Strategic Plan with our School Board that centered on helping students become confident, creative and collaborative.

Yet it seems the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn.  Last school year we developed one point rubrics for all multi aged teams in the areas of collaboration, creativity/innovation, presentation skills and critical thinking.  Every single student at Renaissance has set a personal learning goal this year.  Our entire staff has taken on learning how to better facilitate student to student and teacher to student critique and feedback.  And through it all we have a happy school culture that people can feel when they walk in our school.

Our future strategic goals include exploration of what we need to know to facilitate student led conferences and further push the boundaries of “traditional” schooling by going gradeless as soon as next school year.  Needless to say, there is never a dull moment.

Our next Learning Celebration is scheduled for March 13, 2019.  However, just today I met with the 5th/6th grade team who proposed a different day of the week simply because what they have to showcase will take a whole day or more.  I told them they have my full support to plan a showcase that meets their needs.

So first of all I would love to connect with your efforts and share more about our journey.  Second, I would like to dig into the resources and best practices our staff will need as we move towards student led conferences.  Finally, I want to take our story of student learning to others in our state and across the midwest.  My visit to HTH in November only increased my passion for our work and a desire to never stop learning.

To see the movie students made after their museum night in December, click here.