An innovative school district is being noticed worldwide, because there is no such thing as thinking outside the box in a small town where there is no box.
The Ness City USD 303 only has two school buildings, and a total of 320 students in a town of about 1,400 people. This year, they literally burned boxes as a display of their commitment to change and new ways of teaching and learning.
“As long as that box is there, it is hard for us to change because we can always slink back inside that box and get comfortable,” said Superintendent Derek Reinhardt.
When the staff was preparing for the new school year, Reinhardt had teachers write what they were comfotable with about their classes, and what they were afraid to try. He then took the boxes outside, put them in a 50-gallon barrel, and set them on fire.
“Those boxes don’t exist any more,” Reinhardt said. “That was the visual they need to say ‘OK, he’s giving us permission to do things differently.’
One of the things they are doing differently is allowing teachers more freedom for project based learning. For example, industrial education teacher Brent Kerr’s mass production class answered the challenge to create a new product. They utilized educational consultant Kevin Honeycutt, who had come to speak to seventh graders about social media. His presentation was well received by students and teachers, and generated a lot of enthusiasm and ideas. He started visiting the school more often.
“I got addicted to going out there,” Honeycutt said. “I was looking for a laboratory situation where we could try something new.”
Kerr’s class was ready to design and build Honeycutt’s idea for a “modern day steamer chest.” He wanted luggage that could stand up to airline wear and tear, and have room for equipment and clothing. The class built the “GOdium” and it is now receiving worldwide attention.