This is the most frequent question we receive regarding the design of The Puzzle School.
Below is an attempt to describe day to day activites and how they connect to the overall philosophy.
Students may engage with The Puzzle School in different ways. One student may follow a more traditional pathway, taking courses and doing assignments, while another student may engage with the school in a self-directed manner, leveraging the school's resources in order to accomplish goals that are personally important to them.
The schedule provided here shows a possible design for coordinated activities (e.g. a class or a club). All of these scheduled activities are optional. Students could, for example, engage in an independent project or an internship for the entire day.
All students will be expected to meet with an advisor 1:1 at least one hour per week and all students will have to meet the required state standards, although we expect that many of The Puzzle School's activities will support student toward state standards without explicit instruction.
The primary goal of The Puzzle School is to support students toward taking ownership of their education, their lives, and the school itself, with an eye toward their future and their community.
There are two primary aspects of this goal that we focus on:
It is important to note that this does not imply that students should simply do what ever they want. Their decisions affect other people and the decisions of other people affect them, so they need to be conscious of how their decisions interact with and affect their community, their future, etc.
Finding the right balance between learning and creating in an effort to gain acceptance to college or build a resume vs. thriving in a healhy manner and enjoying the present moment is one of the greatest challenges we all face, but it is a particularly distinct challenge for students.
The puzzle-solving process provides support for navigating this challenge. As students become more thoughtful about their goals, both short term and long term, more observant of their own behaviors and intentional with their actions the specifics of what they are learning become less important. The underlying critical thinking skills they are learning will help them approach learning anything more effectively.
The Puzzle School combines this with requirements and dialog with advisors in order to help students think about their future more effectively. While this does not guarantee a successful balancing of these concerns, it does provide multiple ways for students, teachers, and parents, to iterate toward an effective balance.
The Puzzle School feels there is nothing more important than a student who understands who they are and has a healthy perspective about their ability to grow and change. A student who is reflective about their strengths, weaknesses, interests, goals, etc. can be more intentional and honest with their lives. Supporting students in this exploration and the activities that arise out of this exploration is a big part of The Puzzle School experience.
At the same time there are challenges ahead that students are not always aware of and challenges the school faces such as state standards and general operational concerns that students must be conscientious of.
In general we believe that dialog presents the best opportunity to navigate these challenges. We believe that students, when treated with respect and provided opportunities to make informed decisions with the support of competent adults are capable of navigating these challenges. As such The Puzzle School will present students with the best description of the challenges they may face in their future or that the school faces today and will work with students to develop and iterate on strategies for overcoming these challenges.
The Puzzle School will practice the puzzle philosophy itself. We will constantly seek to become more flexible and responsive to student needs as they come up.
At the same time it is important to provide an structured environment that effectively utilizes resources and is organized and coordinated so that students get the help they need while developing their skills for self-direction.
“So this was the big secret historians keep to themselves: historical research is wildly seductive and fun. There's a thrill in the process of digging, then piecing together details like a puzzle.”
~ Nancy Horan
“As a kid, I was into music, played guitar in a band. Then I started acting in plays in junior high school and just got lost in the puzzle of acting, the magic of it. I think it was an escape for me.”
~ Michael J. Fox
“When you write non-fiction, you sit down at your desk with a pile of notebooks, newspaper clippings, and books and you research and put a book together the way you would a jigsaw puzzle.”
~ Janine di Giovanni