The kids presented their final passion project products at our Wellness Fair last Friday. Other 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes attended, along with families and community members. Walking around the gym that morning, I was able to connect with families and guests, while my students … did their thing. My hands were off the wheel, and they were in control.
That afternoon was spent competing in our annual 6th grade track meet where the class took 4th place in the Tug-of-War and students participated in a variety of relays and individual field events. It was a beautiful day, and the kids really came together to support one another.
Today was the last day of the school year. One year ago today, the ARCTIC Zone had not yet been fully approved by the Eau Claire School Board. Andy and I devoted our entire summer to designing a space, an environment, a schedule, and a process to approach teaching and learning from a more personalized and project-based way.
On September 1st, we opened the doors of the ARCTIC Zone to our very first group of 25 6th grade students, half the amount we had originally hoped to have in year one. After all, each of us had taught classes of 30+ students in the past. What we came to realize very quickly, however, is that teaching a “class” of 25 students is very, very different than teaching 25 individuals.
As I stare at my computer screen trying to reflect on all we and our students have accomplished this past year, I am at an utter loss for words. I need time to process the many, many highs, as well as the lows that we encountered. I need time to let it all sink in.
Year one has come to an end, but our work is far from over. As I hugged students goodbye today, we promised to stay connected over the summer and shared our excitement for next year. The coming year will bring a new group of students and a new set of challenges. But this group of students will always be our very first group, and that is pretty darn special.