BFA Freshman Core Personalizes Learning, Preps for Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements

One of the major changes at BFA to prepare for the Class of 2020 and the Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements was the introduction of Freshman Core. Last spring, teachers Will Brooks, Gabe Grant, Danielle Kicsak, Mark Ladue, Jensen Welch, and Sara Villeneuve began to plan for this new experience for all incoming 9th Grade students. Five weeks into the school year, the results of their planning is evident as  students engage in connected curricular activities and projects.

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The team began working with students before the school year actually started. They spent a full day-and-a-half meeting with every student and their family discussing their goals and interests to help the team better personalize their learning.

“It helped me to meet the teachers before everyone else was around. I’m kind of shy, so it helped them get to know me and me to get to know them.” Katie M, student

Students spend their mornings in the Core Team area working in Humanities and STEM. They rotate from one group to the other every other day, but also have days when they work with all of the teachers and other days when they focus on just one teacher.

“I’m enjoying the new schedule. You know where you’re going to be the next day. Plus you have an extra day to get your work done.” Mahlia P, student

“The schedule makes the week go by faster. At least in the morning!” – Nick A, student

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Students are currently working on an inquiry project with one of the Core teachers serving as their mentor. Since the first unit has focused on “Change”, the students selected an area of change that interests them and are spending time investigating and preparing to share their knowledge with their classmates. The projects range from ”How Racing Affects a Horse’s Body” to “Football Safety Upgrades” to ”The Crusades Impact on Europe.”

“We got to pick our own topics. We have more options and time. We can pick our own presentation style.” – Emma R, student

To connect the concept of “Change” within the disciplines, the students are learning about Gandhi in Humanities (Peaceful Change), Linear and Exponential Growth in Math (how change is represented mathematically), and Evolution and Natural Selection in Science (how species adapt in order to survive changing conditions). To further integrate the topics, students analyzed data from India as they developed mathematical models for population growth and used historical data from India to explain unexpected dips in the population over time.

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“I noticed that every assignment is focused on change and it all connects to the inquiry project. It helps if you get stuck, you can get back to the big idea.” – Nick M, student

“It’s really nice that everything is connected. We’re focused on one topic and broadening our learning.” – Natalie B., student

The students have worked on Engineering Design Projects as part of their science work and designed a Barbie Bungee for math. This work will lead toward their next unit on “Innovation” and the introduction to the new Innovation Lab.

“It’s great that we have large chunks of time to work on projects. The teachers are there to guide and help us. They give us feedback, but we’re in charge of our learning” – Kiana L, student

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