17 March 2023
Fab Foundation: We need to transform schools before we lose children entirely
Interview with Sherry Lassiter, President and SEO of Fab Foundation, and Rodney Williams, who works there as a Program Manager. The Fab Foundation is an organization in Boston, USA, which has become a grantee of HTT for the preparation of the IDS (Interdisciplinary Subject) concept, a methodological tool to enable a transformation of teaching priorities toward holistic education.
Why are we doing this at all? Why are we fighting for the transformation of schools?
Sherry: Because we are losing our children.
What do you mean by this?
Sherry: It seems to me that many of today’s children hate school. They hate it for a simple reason: what they learn in it and how they learn. And that’s so sad, isn’t it?
Rodney: It is very sad.
Sherry: So much of what they’re learning and that they’re engaged in is not happening in the classroom. They’re learning through sports, they’re learning through online gaming, they’re learning through all these things that don’t really happen in school. School is becoming less and less relevant in their lives and not applicable to the kinds of jobs or careers that they go into. This is what I mean when I say that we are losing children. We have to change it, and we need to do it now. Before we lose them entirely. Before school becomes irrelevant.
What is missing in schools?
Rodney: For instance, project-based learning. We know it works. We know that students like to learn through hands-on experience, and they want to be engaged. I think we’ve been doing the traditional way of learning for too long. It is high time to introduce something new. Classrooms should be totally different. The approach should be different. We should introduce other instructions for the teacher to improve learning and make it fun for the students.
Sherry: Then the school has a chance to be relevant. Because it does have value in so many ways: the sort of socialization, the disciplinary knowledge…
Rodney: …Collaboration. Students have different learning styles, so we want to meet those students where they are. To give everyone a chance. And the HTT project allows them to try different ways of learning. That’s important.
Speaking about the HTT project: the curriculum developed by your team is based on the assumption that interdisciplinary education combined with project-based learning is the most effective way to help students acquire the 10 competencies from What School Ought To Teach list prepared by HTT. Why did you decide to do it that way?
Sherry: We come from an organization that provides learning experiences in a hands-on, project-based way. And so that is our foundation, and we believe that it not only teaches skills that are technical or digital, but it also teaches transversal skills.
Sherry: Skills that are valuable in the workplace, in society, and in everyday life: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication, all of those wonderful skills that are also a part of HTT’s vision. HTT’s vision feels very much about humanism. So we’re taking the foundations that we’ve already built (and we feel we’ve been very successful in this) – the engagement, the project-based learning, et cetera – and we’re building them into those humanistic values that HTT promotes. And that has been an amazing experience and a real privilege to be able to tie the kind of teaching and learning that we do to these very humanistic values.
What is the role of the teacher in this vision?
Rodney: The role of the teacher, from the way I would envision it, is a constructivist or constructionist type of model: the teacher is the support or the guide, and he allows the students to learn through hands-on experience. At the same time, I believe, that’s a more engaging method for the students. They can find some ownership in their work, and the teacher can sit back and allow them to learn through their own experiences.
Sherry: I would add that it’s a co-learning experience. So the teacher, who doesn’t know everything, guides their students toward knowledge, and he models how they learn. I feel that part of the teacher’s role is to model how you learn over time and how you learn as a lifelong learner.
But how to make teachers want to teach this way? How to encourage them?
Rodney: One way to encourage teachers is to meet them where they’re at. We know that teachers have a full plate. So with our project, we were definitely teacher-focused in terms of developing a curriculum that can fit in their classroom and their busy schedule by giving them some activities and helping them to keep the students excited about what they’re doing, but not to make it a heavy lift for teachers.
We’re meeting at HTT Summit 2023. Moments earlier, you told me: Today, we are really learning a lot. What did you learn today?
Rodney: I learned a lot about the Polish system, and I love to hear perspectives from different educators. Today was so essential and beneficial. I wish a lot more people would’ve heard what was happening here today or had been a part of this experience.
Sherry: I was very excited by the people who were here. They’re passionate educators, passionate sort of administrators, and policy types. And to hear from them was very inspiring. I feel like a HTT’s vision is a pathway to better education. And while it may be exhausting, we’re learning a lot. We just need to figure out how to take the next steps and make that system change.