When I was younger, the older folks would tell me things like, “Go to school so you can get yourself a good education.” School children today probably hear comments like that from time to time, and I have repeated similar things to the young people in my life. The intentions behind these comments are good, but what are the unintended consequences of using terms like “education” and “school/schooling” interchangeably? There are many, but the one that intrigues me most is the one where students begin to believe that the only valuable learning occurs within the walls of a school.

Across Rhode Island and the country, students, teachers, and community mentors are dispelling this erroneous notion with extended learning opportunities (ELOs). ELOs provide an opportunity for students to learn outside of traditional school constraints (time and place) to expand upon classroom experiences, pursue personal academic interests, and explore potential careers. Community mentors support students’ real-world learning while teacher mentors ensure ELOs are rigorous and standards-aligned. In communities like Central Falls, Providence and Woonsocket, students are earning credit for the following extended learning experiences:

  • developing strong critical thinking, public speaking, and debate skills with the Rhode Island Urban Debate League;
  • learning coding while creating applications for Android tablets and smart phones;
  • building research and laboratory science skills while assisting in graduate-level research at Brown University; and many others.

Creating, supervising, and evaluating ELOs is difficult work for schools, but the benefits for students are undeniable. Students who complete ELOs develop greater educational focus along with skills in self-advocacy, communication, and time management. That sounds a lot like the type of student we want graduating from Blackstone Valley Prep High School, ready for the rigors of college and the world beyond!

All in for Day 1!