Gibson Ek explores a new learning model

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Emily Bassett, Staff Writer

Producing a podcast, building a skateboard park, creating clothes to research feminism, and creating an after-school program for middle school students. Does this sound like school?
At Gibson Ek High School, they are actual student projects under way today. Students of the school choose projects and internships based on their own interests, in a school model called “Big Picture Learning”.
There are only five schools in all of Washington that use the Big Picture program.  Gibson Ek is by far the smallest high school in the Issaquah School District.  At 120 students, with only ninth and tenth graders currently, it’s more like a private school than a public school, and the differences don’t stop there.
“Students have so much more freedom to define their learning, but this also means that have so much more responsibility than many of their peers,” Gibson Ek teacher Tonja Reischl said.
This has been a challenge for some students, as many of them work to adapt to a project and internship-based curriculum.  Current student projects range from building storage for a kitchen, like freshman Megan Krohn, to building solar panelling to see how much energy can be generated.
“I’m controlling everything myself. It’s amazing, but so difficult to adjust to,” Krohn remarked.
Sophomore Evon Mahesh is even creating a GSA (gender sexuality alliance) for Gibson Ek, as his first project.
“We recently began our GSA at Gibson, and it was a great turnout – we had 9 people show up for the first meeting,” Mahesh said.
One of Gibson Ek’s primary goals is to create tightly-knit students and staff.  Teachers spend much more time with students than traditional schools, at least 3 hours a day.
“I enjoy how much I get to know the students. Even though it’s only been nine weeks, I feel like I’ve known my students for much longer,” Reischl said.
So far, Gibson Ek is coming together smoothly and students and faculty are excited to see how the school develops as they move toward their first graduating class.