What if the students ran their own schools? Before you list the dystopian teen novels that idealize this concept, take note: it’s already happened — and it was a success. Samuel Levin was a high school junior when he launched the Independent Project at Great Barrington’s Monument Mountain Regional High School. Frustrated with the provided education program, Levin decided to create a new “school” based on his peers ideas. Students pose questions and work with teachers who serve as “mentors” in finding unique and alternative solutions.
The first year of the Independent Project had eight pupils over the course of five months and students spent their time learning to “write a play, build a boat, synthesize a protein,” according to an interview following the pilot with the Washington Post. The courses are varied and amenable because, as Levin believes, students are learning curriculum no longer relevant to modern times. The result was passion-focused, garnering students' interests and creating ways to learn from them.
Did it work? Well, Levin wrote the book on it. Going on to attend Oxford University himself, Levin collaborated with his mother, a developmental psychologist and educator, Susan Engel, to write “A School of Our Own,” published in September from New Press. The book gives a first person perspective of their first year with the program as well as advice for bringing their learning methods into your homes and schools. Engel and Levin will be at Porter Square Books on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. to discuss their work and creating a new kind of education environment for students.