**FDA Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Springdale School of Innovation but thoughts are my own. In researching the school, I discovered a wonderful, innovative school right here in Northwest Arkansas. Read on to learn more about it!**
School days, school days, dear old golden rule days the old song goes. Most Americans who have attended public school in the last 100 years can look back on their education from a similar viewpoint. Whether in the city or country, the emphasis was on reading, writing and arithmetic (we don’t use that word much anymore!). Mastery of these subjects meant a high school diploma and entry into college or a good job.
The job market has changed considerably though, whether education has or not. Technology is now at the forefront of many careers and a once traditional high school and college education isn’t necessarily the best fit for young adults searching for their career paths.
The Springdale School District in Northwest Arkansas recognized education these days is not a one size fits all approach and the need for students to keep pace with changing technology. Enter the Don Tyson School of Innovation.
The School of Innovation opened its doors in 2014 with the goal of offering a more flexible education that is project based and allows students to work at their own pace. In 2016, the school moved from its temporary location at the Jones Center for Families to a brand new campus in East Springdale. The new campus offers plenty of space for students to pursue their educational goals, from a more traditional education to a technology driven one.
Students who are interested in pursuing college can take the core courses needed to complete their education and also take classes that will earn them transfer credits to Northwest Arkansas Community College, allowing them to get ahead in their college educations while still in high school. Students can even earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate from the School of Innovation.
One of the school’s primary features is its focus on STEM education – Science, Technology and Mathematics. For students who want to delve deeper into these subjects, the School of Innovation offers courses in environmental and alternative energies and robotics. Students can earn a commercial drone pilot’s license (how cool is that?) and other certifications. How many high school students can claim they’ve studied alternative energies and are licensed to fly drones?
Even the daily schedule is unique at the School of Innovation. Students spend their class time in four different classes for four days of the school week, and attend “Real World Wednesday” seminars led by different local business leaders to speak about the challenges of the business world. When I was in high school, the business world seemed a distant future, even though most students are only a few years away from getting a job. Learning how to handle the responsibilities of a job and how to manage their time well is another way the School of Innovation is helping prepare its students for the real world.
Students who have an interest in pursuing business can even take internships with local businesses like Tyson Foods while at the School of Innovation. This takes the idea of Real World Wednesdays a step further, allowing students to see what life beyond high school looks like.
Mike Rowe, former host of the popular television show Dirty Jobs, continues to speak out about the need for highly skilled and trained workers in trade jobs. He pushes back against the notion that a college education is necessary for everyone, or that it’s even the right fit for everyone. For students who want to explore options outside of a college education, the School of Innovation has it covered. They offer courses in trades like welding and heating and ventilation. These are skills students can take into the workforce immediately after graduation.
It sounds like a dream education, but, of course, students at the School of Innovation still need to do the hard work, attend classes, and keep their grades up to be able to continue on the path of their preference, whether it’s pre-college, trade, or business. Still, the school makes it easier by providing each student with a laptop and allowing them to work at their own pace to finish courses. This is part of the plan to allow each student a personalized education and the freedom to choose the courses that interest them as they consider options beyond a high school education.
The idea of a one size fits all education – reading, writing and arithmetic – is as outdated as the old song. If you’re looking for a unique education for your student, the School of Innovation is certainly worth a look. Students in the Northwest Arkansas area can attend physically, but the school offers an online option that’s available to any student in the state. The School of Innovation is now enrolling for the 2017-2018 school year. Visit the website at soi.sdale.org to learn more and apply for your rising 8th -12th graders.
Photos provided by Springdale School of Innovation and used with permission.