Personal Learning Days are a new way of encouraging students to take ownership of their learning and exercise their interests.
In Mason City, Iowa students did not report to school Nov. 21 and Feb. 17. They had Personal Learning Days to pursue their passions.
“The purpose of the Personal Learning Days is to offer an innovative approach that honors the fact that learning is ongoing and continues to take place outside the current school day. On Personal Learning Days, students are given the chance to experience the authentic integration of learning and passion by embarking on personalized interest projects outside of school. These may include service learning, global awareness, online collaboration and many other diverse opportunities that are often difficult to fit into our current curriculum,” said Chief Innovation Officer Jonathan Cooper. “Choice is very important for authentic learning. It is exciting to see students designing what they want to learn about and how they’re going to learn it.”
Cooper says that the heart of the initiative are experiences where the student takes learning to the next level, finding mentors and making connections that will have meaningful impact on their future.
“We have been pleasantly surprised and, quite frankly, inspired by the wide diversity of projects that our students and their families have engaged in during this first year of Personal Learning Days. We intentionally kept the process simple and open-ended in order to maximize the opportunity for our students and their families to creatively pursue their learning passions and interests,” he said. “We have had high school students co-design a field trip to a highly specialized science lab in Chicago, design job shadowing partnerships with local doctors and business leaders, and work with other students to design and actually build a shelter out of reused materials in an effort to blend design and sustainability. We have had elementary students take on projects that extend the learning that is happening in their Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math Innovation Lab, help design family vacations to incorporate a learning passion, and spend time learning more about community service by intentionally developing ways to serve their neighbors.”