Ross Morse, the Community Liaison for Pittsfield School District, shares his involvement as a member of the Design Team for the Pittsfield Summer Academies. Be sure to also read our “Applying the Framework” summary that connects Ross’ story to the Students at the Center Framework.
As part of our student-centered district approach, Pittsfield Middle High School has been embracing anytime, anywhere learning for the last several years. The community is being utilized in the education process in many ways. For example, we engaged a community expert in the field of watershed management to host visitors onsite to share in a field study. The valuable resources of our community are making their way into everyday learning.
As part of this commitment to anytime, anywhere learning, students in Pittsfield were offered the opportunity to experience summer learning academies during the summer of 2015. Some academies were offered for high school credit, while others were offered as enrichment opportunities.
The academies were conceived as free-to-the-student, high-quality, engaging, and hands-on learning opportunities that provided interest-based and community-supported experiences. Using their strengths and interests, students can make the connections between their experiential learning, curriculum, and life after high school—while learning a range of skills that can be transferred beyond the classroom.
The three academies offered to students were: Creating Your Summer Adventure in Pittsfield, Behind the Scenes, and Environmental Leadership/Stewardship.
Creating Your Summer Adventure in Pittsfield
Each day, students explored a different recreational activity in the Pittsfield area that included hiking, biking, and fishing. They kept daily journals, both written and video, to put together a presentation of all the available activities. Additionally, students created an online Recreational Resource Guide for the Greater Pittsfield Community as part of their participation in the program.
Behind the Scenes
The students worked with a given script to produce a stage production that allowed them to gain experience with directing, set design, costume design, effective use of lighting and sound, stage management, advertising, and acting. Through field trips to local thrift stores, fabric stores, and craft stores, students had the chance to learn how to repurpose clothing into amazing costumes and set pieces—their hard work transpired into a live performance called 50 Minutes of Fame that many community members attended.
Students spent a week on the Graylag woodland preserve in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. Graylag provided a unique and highly functional outdoor classroom, where students were able to facilitate authentic scientific surveys. Workshops included a mapping initiative, where students learned about the various applications of a map, compass, and tracking data as a field study. They learned how each tool was used, had experience working with the devices, and were given various scenarios to follow with their application.
It’s an exciting time in education and in Pittsfield. The combination of high student interest driven offerings, coupled with the engagement of our supportive community, lends itself to sustaining learning opportunities year round in a meaningful way, benefiting both the community and its school.
Authored by Ross Morse
- Students have equitable opportunities to learn outside of the school year. The Pittsfield summer program is offered to all students at no cost. Research shows that more accessible summer opportunities can support and influence larger in-school reform efforts.
- Out-of-classroom learning time is prioritized. Each experience took place outside of a traditional classroom, and the project outcomes—such as a community guide or theatre performance—provided extended opportunities for youth to learn and engage with program content. Many students foster a desire for learning in school when their out-of-classroom involvements include informal, hands-on, or project-based activities.