Live-Blogging at CART, Center for Advanced Research & Technology, a Charter High School in Clovis, CA

I drove to CART from Martinez this morning; it is here in Clovis, right next to Fresno, to visit here at a charter high school jointly associated with Fresno and Clovis.  The school was featured in a very interesting article written by teachers here published last spring in ASCD's Educational Leadership, the issue on Reshaping High Schools.  More on that article later.   (If you are reading along: I am posting hourly or so, and know that in liveblogging, the chronology goes from bottom to top.)

Beautiful entrance lobby, great open space, soaring ceiling, skylights.  700 kids streaming in with positive affects at 730 in the morning.   

I am spending the morning in a bio--medical lab program; the kids will be in this class for three hours, 730 to 1030, before returning to their regular high schools for afternoon classes.  There are maybe 60 students in this large, modernly furnished, attractive space; the room feels full but not crowded.  The teacher, 1 of 3 in the room, dressed in medical scrubs, which is great-- sets a tone, models a working environment.  Looking around the room, maybe a third of the students are wearing scrubs too.   

Teacher opens asking the students at table to provide their hypothesis for the illness suffered by the student in yesterday's case study-- an emotional story of a sick child, with many symptoms present.  Yesterday, apparently, they had discussed the case in groups, and now he was asking them to offer a theory, and defend it.    Infectious disease?  Food Poisoning? Anyone ever had food poisoning?  What was that like?  Connect to personal lives.   Ideas are ventured, and the teacher asks them to defend with supporting details. 

Next we watch 10 minutes from a very compelling episode of House, projected digitally.  The scene is of a high school student in class, getting ill-- really connecting to these kids and their lives, emotionally grabbing them.  Why is he ill?  As House and his team frantically seek the answer to his illness, so now do the students.  I think this use of TV drama is just great-- not for an hour, not even thirty minutes, but 5 or 10-- very effective for engaging and emotionally motivating students-- I know I enjoy it. 

Handouts are provided, and now the kids are working themselves, quietly but focused. Teacher is circulating, checking in with groups, but mostly they are self-directed, not needing much prodding or prompting.  No droopy eyes here, not much yawning-- they have a purpose, to solve this mystery.  

I speak to the teacher, the one wearing scrubs.  He is an English teacher, he tells me (I am a bit surprised).  The kids get English credit, and other credits, for this class--- so he is leading them in a class exercise in reading the medical mystery, critically thinking about it, and writing about it.  He has distributed a handout that is a graphic organizer for the kids thoughts on the source of the illness.  

The students now, table by table, venture a second diagnosis, refined from the first.   He encourages them to think differently-- not be afraid to disagree with each others- urges them to think outside of the box.   As they offer answers, he keeps asking them "and why?"   When the answers begin converging, lots of consensus growing around one answer, the teacher pushes back-- "let's have someone offer a counter-argument, let's have someone argue against this."

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