LYNDON CENTER -- In the world of education, conventional teaching that predominantly focuses on the teacher as the provider of knowledge is shifting towards a more student-centered focus with the teacher as a facilitator of education. Students are taking a more active role in their education, designing learning paths and setting goals that reflect their interests and needs toward a successful future.

Research shows that learning environments emphasizing supportive relationships between students and teachers can boost achievement. A new set of case studies conducted by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, or SCOPE, at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education emphasize supportive relationships between students and teachers in academic environments that are challenging, relevant, collaborative, student-directed and connected to real-life situations. Educators are supported in creating a student-centered learning environment through opportunities for reflection, collaboration, and leadership. This is the type of setting necessary for students to develop the skills to succeed in college, career, and life.

Recognizing that relationships and student engagement are vital to educational success, Lyndon Institute is introducing a new three-week "January Term" semester intended to immerse all learners in authentic studies of non-traditional subjects using a project/problem-based learning approach.

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to complex questions, problems, or challenges.

"The goal of the January Term is to allow students, working with faculty and staff, the opportunity to engage in deeper learning through creating, exploring, designing, making and thinking," said Headmaster Daren Houck. "The courses taught begin with a theme or problem that students and/or faculty and staff have passion for and are solution oriented. Our students will have the opportunity to create a final product which reflects the skills and knowledge gained from their chosen fields of study."

The benefits of the January Term include hands-on, applied, active and creative learning activities; unique educational experiences; opportunities for internships; in-depth, intensive, rigorous courses based on student interests and specific themes; and building a deeper understanding of the school's core values.

The January Term program was developed over several months, starting with the formation of a January Term Committee comprised of LI faculty and staff that includes January Term chair and Special Education instructor Karen Kennedy; Technology Integration specialist, Dan Fales; dance instructor, Rebecca McGregor; math instructor Jonathan Speer and Health and Human Services instructor, Patrice McDonough. The committee held several on-campus planning and brainstorming meetings with faculty and staff, visited other independent schools to evaluate programs similar in scope, and attended conferences dedicated to project-based and deeper learning.

During January Term, the hours of the school day will remain the same. The schedule will be broken into four blocks for courses, with a lunch/advisory block. There will be a variety of courses offered, ranging from single block courses (worth .25 credits) to four block courses (worth 1.0 credits) Course proposals are submitted by students, faculty and staff. Students will choose the equivalent of four blocks of study from a course bulletin, which will be published by late October.

To assist with planning for the January Term, LI has invited Dr. Maura Hart, adjunct faculty member at Antioch University in Keene, N.H. to speak to faculty and staff during in-service in August. Hart is a school change consultant currently working with the School Wide Integration Framework for the transformation of Schools (SWIFT). Hart's address will "discuss the underpinnings of a proposed need to change the way instruction is delivered from that of traditional, passive intake to creating dynamic opportunities for students to learn, through experience and practice, the skills necessary to successfully navigate the complex world of the present and future." Hart will also offer workshops on designing and assessing project-based learning opportunities.

The January Term will take place from Jan. 5 through Jan. 23, 2015. The term will end with an exhibition of final projects during the evening of Jan. 23. The exhibition will be open to the public.

"This new initiative will bring our entire campus together to share in a unique learning experience," said Houck. "It allows our faculty and staff the time to share their knowledge in subjects they are passionate about as well. We have been pleased to discover interests in film-making, woodworking, boat-building, new product development, survival skills, songwriting, Model UN, sound production, and the list continues to grow."

Additional information and a list of "Frequently Asked Questions" are available in the Academics section of the Lyndon Institute website, www.lyndoninstitute.org.

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