In their article Examining the Teaching Life, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe write that “For a school to be a model learning organization, all faculty members should be professional learners: they should engage in deep, broad study of the learning they are charged to cause.” Several times each year, our faculty gathers to engage in this work. Earlier this winter, our professional development centered around cognitive neuroscience. Our teachers spent time learning and thinking about the functions of the brain and how effective instruction and experience change the brain.

Indian mountain school ninth grade boat trip

A 9th grader climbing the rigging on the annual boat trip off the coast of Maine.
This past week, our learning focused on a film titled, “Most Likely to Succeed,” which explores the future of education in the United States and highlights one school, High Tech High, in California. After viewing the film, our faculty and staff had a two-and-a-half hour discussion about education in the context of our school.
At the end of the afternoon, our facilitator asked us to answer the question “What if Indian Mountain…?” Teachers, administrators, and staff members recorded their conclusions to that question, which included:

What if Indian Mountain…
  • required 50% of class time to be spent outdoors?
  • had a working farm?
  • used our ropes course for a physics lab?
  • combined subjects and collaborated across divisions?
  • had a siesta after lunch?
  • created collaborative meeting time and courses?
  • provided daily meditation?
  • had bigger classrooms that allowed for more movement and multi-purpose?
  • spaces for interdisciplinary work?
  • became a learning lab for teachers?
  • got rid of 40 minute periods?
  • set aside every Friday for the school to hike up the Mountain?
  • didn’t have bells?
  • was project based and portfolio based allowing creative and real-world thinking?
  • did away with homework?
  • started later in the morning?
  • had no schedule constraints?
  • allowed the kids to decide what topics they wanted to learn about?
  • threw away our textbooks?
These questions were a clear indication that our teachers are actively engaged in “deep and broad” thinking and learning about thinking and learning. They are asking questions about how and what students learn, and why. They are pondering the adaptive challenges that face us as educators as we look at training students for jobs and lives that we may not yet be able to imagine.

Hiking up Indian Mountain

Students hiking up Indian Mountain.
No matter what path we follow as an institution, this much is clear: our teachers demonstrate their expertise and professionalism when they question our practice and enhance their learning about our students. As Wiggins and McTighe write, “A school is in business to cause and promote learning. It should, therefore, model for all institutions what it means to be a learning organization.”

Wood working at Indian Mountain School

Putting the final touches on a stool in a woodworking elective.

If you had to answer the question, “What if Indian Mountain…?” what would you say?