The city of Salem is an extraordinarily rich environment for learning, with significant natural, cultural and civic resources. The opportunity to better integrate these resources into the formal learning experiences of city youth is one factor driving this change. At the same time, city schools and students also face significant challenges, particularly exaggerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both observations of the middle school and relevant data suggest that students are disengaged from school, and struggling to find meaning, relevance and connection in their learning.
Salem Public Schools have a history of innovation and experimentation, and many of the ideas in this pilot, including small learning communities and interdisciplinary learning, have been implemented (and subsequently set aside) before. This pilot will build on the city’s track record and will attempt to show that significant leaps in practice are possible and sustainable.
Designed collaboratively with teachers, students, and families, the pilot will embrace the whole city of Salem as a laboratory for students’ learning, doing, and becoming. By using flexible schedules, employing thoughtfully-selected tech and curriculum supports, and deeply engaging with community partners outside of the regular classroom, the pilot will accelerate progress towards the common goals of all SPS middle schools: to respect learners’ diversity, support their agency, and cultivate purposeful, creative, and authentic learning experiences that foster a love of learning.