Empower youth to overturn stereotypes

“It’s not that we need to convince these young people, one at a time, that school is important and they need to work hard and have high aspirations. It’s more that we need to give them opportunities to be who they really want to be, not who they feel constrained to be because of their position in the social structure.”

—Ron Ferguson, in an interview with Elissa Nadworny on NPR, “What Young Men Of Color Can Teach Us About The Achievement Gap

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The Impact of Rosenwald School Design

Ecoschool

NPR has an interesting piece up about one-room schoolhouses in the segregated South, called Rosenwald Schools after the man who funded them. An economist, Dan Aaronson, conducted a study on their impact:

“He and other economists used this data to compare communities that had a Rosenwald school with communities that didn’t. It turns out these schools had a big impact on kids in the area.

“First and foremost, they got more education,” says Aaronson. But that’s only the beginning. Students who went to Rosenwald schools had higher IQ scores than kids who didn’t. They made more money later in life. They were more likely to travel to the North as part of the Great Migration. They lived a little bit longer. The women delayed marriage and had fewer kids. And crime rates in the area of the schools went down.”

There are no doubt multiple reasons for this significant impact, but there’s a clue that stood out to me as very relevant here:

These so-called Rosenwald Schools had the best architectural designs of the time, with big windows to maximize sunlight — there was no electricity — good sanitation and good ventilation.”

Could it be that the physical design of Rosenwald schools played a role in the significant long-term positive outcomes associated with these schools?

Forest Mondays

A stream in the Adirondacks
A stream in the Adirondacks

“Every Monday morning, the kids suit up for a day outdoors. Rain or shine — even in the bitter cold — they go out. They head to the woods next to their school where they’ve built a home site with forts and a fire pit.

First thing, the kids go to their “sit spots.” These are designated places — under a tree, on a log — where each kid sits quietly, alone, for 10 minutes. Their task is to notice what’s changed in nature since last week.

. . .

What her students gain from the experience might not be measurable, she says, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Her principal, Amos Kornfeld, agrees. He says schools are being forced to think about everything in terms of data and measurable outcomes, but he doesn’t need test scores to tell him forest kindergarten is working.

When the kids come back from the woods, they look happy and healthy, he says. “Schools need to be focusing on that, too.”

–“Out Of The Classroom And Into The Woods,” news story on NPR ED by Emily Hanford