LIVINGSTON COUNTY – A new alternative education provider says that teens who are having a tough time in school may not be “problem children,” but in fact gifted individuals deserving a chance to design their own learning schedules.
Discover Self-Directed Teen Learning (DiscoverSDT) is a five-member team whose against-the-grain ideas about teen development and education promise to help smart adolescents for whom the public school system is failing. Their theory revolves around the idea of “unschooling” rather than homeschooling or sending kids to private schools.
“Unschooling means that teens are registered as homeschooled, but there is no set curriculum,” said Josh Murphy, board member for DiscoverSDT. “This way, students are free to more thoroughly engage materials and people that really inspire them, and make themselves way more likely to be hired in a field that they have always cared about.”
Murphy explained that a Discover student might go sailing with their grandpa, for example, and really engage with the hands-on experience. Then, under the guidance of a Discover education counselor, they could look up a multitude of books, videos, seminars, or classes about sailing and sail-making. They could learn about sailing all day long if they wanted to.
Then, they could send emails to local sail-making companies (turns out there is one in Rochester, Haarstick Sailmakers) and get an internship, a tour, or even just another professional contact in a business they care about.
The point, said Murphy, is to let teens grow up in the real world, using their talents to engage the physical world and have a solid professional network even before they are old enough to consider college.
Which, the DiscoverSDT board members said, is a viable option for such “self-directed teen learners.” Students in other self-directed teen learning programs (there are 6 in the U.S.) have gone on to MIT and UC Berkeley.
Students would not be expected to keep on the same career path for their entire registration with the program. The DiscoverSDT board members said they consider the process of elimination a critical part of students’ search for their target careers.
The DiscoverSDT board members added that their intention is not to eliminate schools. Plenty of teens, they said, are well suited for school and can definitely flourish there. The intention is to create a support system of professionals for teens as they navigate real-world learning situations. The program could take many forms. It could be a physical facility for students, a collaborative meeting place in the community, individual mentoring by professional educators, or an online platform to access self-directed learning tools.
DiscoverSDT is giving public presentations on their program and ideas through the rest of this week. They will be in Canandaigua at 7p.m. on Thursday and Lima at 7p.m. on Friday.
The DiscoverSDT board invites everyone to email them at DiscoverSDT@gmail.com, and visit their Facebook page. Interested community members can take a quick survey on what they might like the Discover program to be like here.
PHOTO CAPTION: Josh Murphy spreads the word about Discover in North Dansville. Image from Facebook.com.