Chapter 12 - Solving the dropout dilemma

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Solving the dropout dilemma

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2. Integrated studies use the world as a classroom
 
  If Mt. Edgecumbe, Alaska, is an unlikely place to start a revolution, the lush, green, heavily-afforested national parks and soaring mountains of New Zealand seem even further removed from the traditional schoolroom. But link them with the latest computer technology, a dedicated team of university innovators and some flexible teachers from Freyberg High School in the small city of Palmerston North, and again the result is surprising.
  Every innovation has its visionary driving-force. Freyberg's was Dr. Pat Nolan, senior lecturer in education at Massey University on the outskirts of Palmerston North. Massey was originally an "agricultural college" and it is closely linked with several nearby farm research institutes. So its hands-on tradition is a long one. Pat Nolan marries his love of education with a passion for exploring the New Zealand outdoors: its towering volcanic snowfields, clean sparkling rivers and forests rich with native trees and birds. He's also a computer buff, who now heads Massey's Educational Research and Development Center, a pioneer in providing data-based services to other educational institutions.
  Nolan has put all his passions together in the Freyberg "integrated studies program". But it's no mere dream. Nolan sees it as the kind of alternative educational program that "might go the next step in providing for all high school students the kind of results previously enjoyed by only the top 30 to 40 percent".12
  He says "the old method" of high school studies is separated from the real world. "We've all been through the school system. What we've experienced is a compartmentalized or segmented curriculum, where subjects are locked up in their little boxes, with tight little boundaries around them. So we learn mathematics, physics and English separately. Seldom do we see the connection between subjects. Yet it's by linking subjects together and seeing the interconnections that we come to understand the real world better. And that is basically what integration is all about: developing ways of teaching - and experiencing - knowledge in a way that establishes the interconnections in the minds of the students, and has them actually using that knowledge to create new solutions."
  Similar arguments, of course, have been expressed for many years. In New Zealand alone five separate educational inquiries, from 1943 to 1987, have stressed the benefits of integrated studies.13 But many high

 

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