Students return from spring break Tuesday afternoon and immediately join small groups of up to twelve peers and two faculty members for a four day, experiential immersion program we call Project Period.
Project Period has existed at Proctor in various forms since the 1970s, but its mission has remained the same: to provide an in-depth experiential learning opportunity to every student. The philosophy behind these first four days of the Spring Term mirrors that presented by Geoff Mulgan in the TED Talk
Mulgan describes his work with the Young Foundation
and their goal of implementing studio schools throughout England. These schools have a profile strikingly similar to Proctor: intentionally enrolling around 300 students, the majority of curriculum focusing on project based learning, teachers playing the role of coach more so than instructor.
Studio schools embrace the notion students learn best through “doing”; recognizing students will respond well when engaged with real world problems and are put in a position to actually help solve those problems. The schools in the UK have addressed two issues with education Proctor has managed to effectively combat as well: bored students and a desire from future employers to have students graduate high school and university with real skills.
The results in the UK have been impressive and the country plans to have more than 40 such schools launched in the coming years. While the success of this form of education may seem astonishing to many, we have long known this approach serves our graduates incredibly well as they go on to college and to lead lives of impact in the world.
As Project Period groups embark on their adventures learning about social entrepreneurship, maple sugaring, athletic training, or cancer research by engaging with experts in the field, another chapter in Proctor’s experiential learning tradition will be written.
What is most exciting as a teacher, however, is that the experiential methods of Project Period are representative of what each and every academic class at Proctor seeks to do: teach content and skills through experiences that will prepare students to positively contribute to their communities in the future.