AERO E-News 27.02.11

A Suitable Learning Environment (Article)

Students at a private school help design their curriculums. Scott Waldman, Times Union (January 24th)

ALBANY — Greg Henderson wanted to learn about astrophysics, so he told his teacher to design a class for him. The next week, he was talking string theory with his friends.

Henderson, 16, is a student at the Harriet Tubman Democratic High School, which is housed in a restored row home that is a rare bright spot on a South End street where many of the buildings were abandoned long ago. With just 17 students, Harriet Tubman is also an educational island that exists somewhere outside the public, charter and private school sphere.

The 4-year-old school offers perhaps the most unique educational experience in the region and is closer to home schooling than any traditional learning environment. Students jam on the house banjo or guitar and teach music theory in a basement classroom. The teens have a say in the hiring of staff and cleaning chores to perform at the end of every day. There are traditional classes, though none larger than 11 students, for those who want to pass the state’s Regents tests, and then there are other courses that students help design based on their own interests.

“I feel responsible for my own education,” said Henderson. “Instead of a teacher saying ‘read this,’ I feel compelled to learn.”

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