After a successful year of growing its reach through a new regional Hub system, Rural Schools Collaborative is now expanding its network into the northern Rocky Mountains via a new partnership with Teton Science Schools (TSS).
TSS is a national leader in place-based education and will serve as the RSC “Northern Rockies” hub site. TSS has campuses in Jackson, Wyoming and Victor, Idaho, and also serves schools throughout the country with its outreach and professional development for educators.
The partnership and work of the hub site will center on Teton Science Schools’ new Place Network Schools (PNTSS) program, a collaborative network of K-12 schools that focuses on connecting rural schools and communities through place-based education. The PNTSS program currently is piloting with Notus School District (ID), Swan Valley Elementary School District (ID), Meadows Valley School District (ID), and Mountain River School (VT). The first pilot in the Rural School Collaborative will be University Charter School at the University of West Alabama, opening fall 2018.
The long-term vision for PNTSS is a scalable, rural school K-12 model that centers on learner-centered place-based education across all curriculum areas. Enhancing the model are elements of project-based, competency-based, and personalized learning combined with leadership and self-awareness skills. To better connect the schools, TSS will be developing a digital network for rural school collaboration with online learning and virtual teacher professional development to facilitate teacher growth in remote areas.
While rural schools face similar challenges to many urban districts, they also have distinct needs and face problems that are unique to the rural context. The Place Network strategically targets rural areas to help address these issues through an innovation network, helping to connect what are often geographically remote areas. Nate McClennen, VP of Education and Innovation at TSS, notes that while many single schools exist that are innovating in local places, no network exists to help accelerate a next-generation place-based model in rural K-12 schools.
“Rural communities face decreasing populations and socio-economic instability, and yet they possess incredible local resources. We are building a model in partnership with these small schools that allows students to better understand their local communities and be a part of local rural change efforts,” said McClennen. “We know that when small rural schools can connect and share around common goals, innovation and outcomes are accelerated.”
The Northern Rockies Hub is RSC’s eighth such venture. Other Hubs serve rural regions in Alabama, Arkansas, northern California, western Illinois, the Missouri Ozarks, Ohio, and southern Wisconsin. RSC will be assisting the PNTSS program in the establishment of Place Network Schools within the hub network. Two more RSC Hub announcements are coming in the weeks ahead.
“Thoughtful organizations, imaginative students, and innovative teachers must work together to enhance student learning, community engagement, and public outcomes.” says RSC director Gary Funk. “Our new collaboration with Teton Science Schools will allow us to leverage our respective partners to do just that. We are looking forward to expanding meaningful place-based education throughout rural regions.”
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