Independent School | Bethesda MD
13383
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How We Teach

OUR APPROACH

Our approachMysa School is a globally connected one room school house. We teach our academic subjects through a combination of both cooperative group work and personalized individual work. Our “one room school house” means that Mysa is a tight-knit community and a supportive environment in which to learn. The school itself is comprised primarily of one large room with flexibly configurable  furniture and movable walls enabling us to change the physical space depending on the activities that are taking place.

In addition to community meetings and engaging in co-curricular activities with peers, students work on understanding and solving real world problems. An example of a real world problem might be finding ways to help clean the water in the Chesapeake Bay.  To approach this problem students learn about the history of the Bay and the local ecosystem. In studying the intricacies of our water system, they might discover that they need to learn more about the chemistry of the water in order to know what “pollution” really means.  That knowledge might spur an action plan that involves working with the local oyster farmers to find ways to help restore the oyster population.  In collaborative group work students learn that the issues that face our world are complex and demand knowledge across many disciplines. Over time, students learn how important it is to be an informed citizen and understand the value in working together with each other and the community to find solutions.


At Mysa School students spend time every day working on their personalized learning plans. When a student begins his journey at Mysa School we create an individual learning plan that sets out the skills and content the student needs to learn across all subject areas. The plan involves assessing what the student knows already and then determining what skills and content the student needs to learn next (see the “What We Teach” page for more information). The speed at which a student moves through a subject is up to that student, in consultation with their teachers and parents.

 

Research shows that students are more engaged in learning if they have choices and if the material is relevant to their life. In designing the lessons and units needed to master the required skills, each student’s learning plans will be customized to the unique interests of that student. For example, if a student is very interested in animals, then that student’s learning will be linked to animals. If a student is interested in gaming, then, lessons will be linked to the topic of gaming, as much as possible. The goal is to make the material interesting and engaging. This does not mean, however, that the material covered will be haphazardly selected and related only to the students’ initial interests. But the possibilities for linkages will always be taken into consideration. The learning plan will specify a clear set of learning outcomes – the knowledge and skills required to progress in a particular subject area. Students will be tracked in their mastery of these skill and content standards to ensure that they are learning a particular subject in a deep and meaningful way.

As students’ interests become more specialized and complex so do the ways in which they are taught. For example, a part of a learning plan of a high school student who is interested in becoming a doctor might be an internship at a local hospital and an online class in medicine through Brown University. Depending on the student’s interest and learning style, we find the resources, experiences, and experts in the field to guide student’s learning.

MASTERY MODEL

Mysa School uses a “mastery model” of education and assessment. A mastery model simply means that students move at their own pace. As students master skills and content, they move on. In this way, covering a course and receiving credit is not contingent upon spending a certain number of hours in a class, but rather moving along as one learns the material. A mastery model allows students of different ages and grades to work together at a level that suits each student’s learning style, interests, needs, and pace.

INDIVIDUAL

Learning plans

Students spend time each day working semi-independently according to their own completely customized academic program. Every student has an individual learning plan and set of lessons that are unique to that student. The learning plans are based on our outcome curriculum and chart a course for the skills and content that each individual student needs to master.

Globally Connected

Student’s individual classes and lessons draw from a variety of local and online resources. These resources might include whole programs, online classes, thematic units, individual lessons and learning games. MYSA School utilizes resources and curriculum from around the globe to teach and move students through academic subject mastery. We take advantage of the expertise in each subject that is available virtually on the Internet and next to impossible to get from any traditional classroom. During individual work time, subject-area specific teachers will be available to guide, explain, give a lesson or lab and assist the students in their work

Work at your own pace

Because the work is individual and the goal is to master skills and learn ideas, students are continuously assessed as they progress through the material at their own pace. In this way a student who excels in a particular area is not tethered by classmates or the teacher’s lessons and a rigid timeline, but rather can move independently at her own pace taking the time she needs to learn the material deeply.

Mysa Menus

At the beginning of each week each student will get his or her weekly “Mysa Menu.” The menu includes all the work that the student is expected to complete that week (during the individual learning blocks of time).  In some respects the work goals are similar to those one might see in other schools. However, the Mysa Menu is completely customized to meet the needs of each student in each academic subject. The menu includes not only the academic “to do” list for the week, but other items the student needs to complete (e.g., clean the hamster cage, practice your foul shots). The student can pick and choose what she wants to do when, with ample choice in how she organizes her time to complete her weekly lessons and tasks.

COLLABORATIVE

Problem based

Every day, students work in small teams on a problem-based learning task or project. For the most part, these tasks will be focused on real-world problems that demand solutions drawn from multiple disciplines and that take into account many perspectives. Topics for group projects might include issues related to poverty, clean water, transnational terrorism, global health, homelessness, equity in education, and cyber governance. As groups work on these issues they will need to draw from multiple disciplines and uncover the complex layers involved in addressing these problems.

Place Based

The collaborative group projects will emphasize what is known in education as “place based education.” Place based education connects the classroom to the community by immersing the students in the local heritage, culture, landscape and opportunities. In the DC area there are a plethora of resources, places and people that we will work with and learn from as students address real world problems and journey out into the real world to ask questions and apply what they know.

Transfer of Learning

Another component of the collaborative work is to utilize the multidisciplinary nature of the projects to help with the transfer of ideas.  Research on learning and the brain shows that when something new is learned, a new neural pathway is created in the brain.  As that learning is reinforced, so too is the neural pathway related to that learning.  It requires great effort to connect what is learned in one context to other contexts.  Transference is the transferring of an idea in one context to another context.  It is that “a-ha!” moment when one sees a connection between two things that were not previously recognized as being related.  In the brain it is literally establishing a new neural pathway between two already established neural pathways – like building a link between two railway systems.  When connections are made across ideas, disciplines, and previously learned concepts, then the neural pathways become more complex, solid, and deeper.  In setting up the group projects, one of the goals will be to emphasize cross-disciplinary and transferable concepts so that the students have exciting “a-ha!” moments, literally adding more depth and complexity to their knowledge, their minds,and their brains.

Emphasis on Social Skills

The collaborative group work will be a place where students learn a much needed skill in today’s world – how to work with other people. The group projects will have deliverables that the group must produce together, including papers, presentations, and action plans. In this setting, the goal will be to help students get along with each other, to teach students strategies for working with other people – to navigate interpersonal relationships. Working with others to solve a problem is a crucial skill in life that is often not taught in schools. Yet there is nothing quite as satisfying as a team that works well together and creates something meaningful. It is also just fun to work with your friends.