Social Entrepreneur Inquiry – The Met School/Big Picture Schools
History of the MET School
The MET school began in downtown Providence, Rhode Island in 1996 with Dennis Littky and Elliott Washor as its co-founders. The two were administrators at a high school in New Hampshire when they were asked by Stanley Goldstein (founder and former CEO of CVS Pharmacy), to go to Rhode Island to help improve education in the state. After working with the state for a period of time, they were asked by the state commissioner of education “to design and implement a “school for the 21 st century” that would involve ‘hands and minds.’”
The guiding question of the school was “what’s best for kids?”. The focus of the school was to create a more personalized approach that kept student interest in mind, had a real-world focus, gave students a sense of belonging, and viewed teachers more so as mentors. The school began in Providence, but has now grown to be a concept that has been adopted by countries around the world.
The MET school came to the 7oaks school division in 2009. It was a school within a school in the sense that it was physically located within the walls of Garden City Collegiate in Winnipeg, but was an entirely separate entity. It has now expanded and has its own building as well as a second MET school within the walls of Maples Collegiate; the school that I currently teach at.
Why does this appeal to me?
Up until this course, I have not put much thought into what takes place at the MET school. However, as I learn more about ‘real-world’ learning, fostering student creativity and innovation, and the importance of promoting entrepreneurial education in the education system, I see the relevance and importance of educational innovations such as those promoted through the MET school. I have visited the school on several occasions and have become intrigued with the work that takes place there.
The students at the MET school can pursue their passions without the constraints of traditional education. Rather than follow a strictly regimented schedule, they have time to focus on Project-Based Learning, mentorship opportunities, and have teachers act as guides rather than transmitters of information. This is appealing to both student and teachers. As a teacher in a traditional education setting, we are forced at times to teach students topics that simply do not interest them. By taking the MET school approach, teachers can assist and guide students with endeavors that interest them. By keeping a student-centered approach, both the student and the teacher can have a more positive educational experience.
The Social Entrepreneurs
The social entrepreneurs responsible for the MET school, the co-founders Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, have had a vast investment in the MET school along with Big Picture Schooling, and College Unbound (Littky). Combined, they both have over 70 years of educational experience and both hold their doctorates in Education. What appeals to me about these two individuals is the fact that they could redefine and recreate education in a way that makes sense. They were bold and went evolved from the traditional education system that was created in the hopes of preparing students to be good workers during the industrial revolution, and created something that focuses on the needs of the individual student.
I find it inspirational what these two have done and continue to do. It is amazing to see that a concept that began over twenty years ago in Providence, has now made it’s way to my school division, and my school. When searching for a social entrepreneur I was looking for individuals that paved their own path, that thought outside the box, that came up with creative solutions to education in today’s day and age, and that made an impact. Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor have done just that with their MET/Big Picture Schools.
Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability
Their work incorporates innovation and creativity in the sense that students are no longer expected to follow a path that is laid out for them, but rather that they can create. Students at the MET school are expected to be independent with their learning, while still collaborating with teachers, mentors and other students on a regular basis. With the freedom to explore the endless possibilities that lie ahead, students can tap into their passions and be as innovative and creative as possible without trying to remain within the confines that could potentially be present in the traditional education setting.
In terms of sustainability, there seems to be little mention of any direct connection to sustainability initiatives within the MET school. That being said, I feel like it would be a natural topic of interest for students when pursuing their interests as their is so much focus on it in the media and in mainstream education. Although there is no direct connection to it, I can only assume that students would choose to pursue topics related to sustainability and as a result, could become actively involved with sustainability education as opposed to learning about it in the traditional education setting.
After reading what Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor have created and their reasoning behind creating it, I now feel the desire to transform some of my own teaching practices. I will attempt to take more time to get to know my students and learn where their needs and passions lie. Perhaps by doing so, I can begin to formulate lessons and project ideas based on their interests. I would love to give students the opportunity to learn about what they love and feel engaged in their learning. I am not sure if it is entirely necessary to go to an entirely different school in order to have a worthwhile educational experience, but I do see how rethinking some our our/my own teaching practices can have an impact.
O’Brien, Catherine (2016). Education for Sustainable Happiness and Well-Being.