New Online High School Offering Minnesota Teens Webcams, Laptops, and Freedom Holds Demonstration on July 18 in Burnsville

Pittman & Davis

Henderson, Minnesota (PRWEB) July 13, 2005

Up until now, Minnesota teens who wanted the convenience of an online school had to enroll in one with traditional classes and curriculum. But now they have another option; they can attend EdVisions Off-Campus High School and choose what they want to learn. Based on the program used at Minnesota New Country School, famous for its 1995 discovery of deformed frogs in a local pond, EOCHS will offer teens around the state the option of designing their own projects, carrying them out at home or in the community, and sharing them with others via webcam, laptop, and live meetings in different areas of the state.

At the demonstration meeting on July 18 EOCHS staff will be showing short videos and skits about how they connect online, what online projects might entail, and examples of past senior projects at project based schools. There will be a power point with information about EOCHS, and audience members and members of the press will be given a chance to participate in an online web meeting like the ones students and staff will have in the fall.

When Tom Vander Ark of the Gates Foundation first saw EOCHS’ parent school, Minnesota New Country School, he called it “the coolest school in America.” The Gates Foundation has been working to replicate that program ever since. EOCHS is part of a 3.5 million dollar Gates Foundation grant intended to help start project based charter schools across the nation. The grant is managed by EdVisions, Inc., a nonprofit corporation run from a storefront office in the small town of Henderson, Minnesota.

Students in project-based schools rave about their experience. Molly Stennes, a MNCS Senior, says “Projects make learning more interesting, end quote. Molly followed her passion for animals into her senior project. Logging over 300 hours in her senior year on this project, she produced a pamphlet about how to choose a pet, made animal-themed stationary and picture frames to sell at animal fundraisers, and coordinated a fundraising dinner of homemade food to raise money for a local animal shelter. Ignacio Gutierrez, another student, says “Project-based learning is hard, but fun.” Ignacio particularly enjoyed his research project about Cesar Chavez, learning that Mexican-Americans can help their people and be successful in life.

Research is indicating that project based schools are effective in raising students’ self esteem and interest in school. According to a Hope survey done by Mark Van Ryzin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, students in EdVisions schools have a sense of ownership and belongingness, have a high degree of autonomy, and perceive a high degree of adult support. In fact, project based students out-perform students in traditional schools in these studies. Past Studies have shown that motivation drops .9 points every year a student is in a traditional high school. This study shows that student motivation in EdVisions Schools goes up 1.6 points per year.

Surveys of students and parents show satisfaction with project based learning. In a recent school survey at MNCS, 96% of students who responded said that they liked coming to MNCS and 96% of students felt they were learning to be independent. Parents, too, are very satisfied with EdVisions schools. In a recent survey at MNCS, 100% of parents said their child is treated as an individual and that he/she is learning in a new way at school. Says Julene Stordahl, an enthusiastic MNCS parent, “In project based learning students get to express their creativity and individuality.”

EOCHS staff members have all experienced the positive impact of this form of education as project based advisors in similar schools. Says Director Keven Kroehler, “Project based learning provides opportunities for kids, opportunities to learn life skills not just academic skills, opportunities to build meaningful, working relationships with other students and adults. Project based learning provides an opportunity for students to challenge themselves, to push their potential, to go beyond. Project based learning is doing just this in schools all over the nation. We want to make this opportunity available to any student in Minnesota.”

The school will fulfill all six of the elements that most excite and motivate students, as listed by Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change at the Humphrey Institute: education taking place outside the school building, students who really want to do a task and have a choice in what they pursue, students having an opportunity to collaborate with others, students producing a product, students’ efforts being useful to other people, and students having an opportunity for reflection and refinement. Rarely in other schools, whether online or traditional, will you see more than one or two of these aspects assembled in any one place.

EOCHS is unique even among online schools. Other online schools require students to supply their own equipment, but EOCHS will loan students laptops, webcams, and printers if needed. Other online schools set out an academic curriculum for students, but EOCHS students will be encouraged to make hands-on projects, volunteer in the community, and interact with community experts who can help them explore in depth things they are interested in. Other online schools are often conducted primarily through written communications, thereby limiting opportunities for students with low reading and writing skills. But at EOCHS students will have real-time visual and audio connections with each other and with staff, as well as the availability of text readers and voice recognition software if they need them.

EOCHS ushers in exciting new possibilities for high school in the future. At EOCHS students will learn at home, connecting with the community, exploring topics of their own choosing, and rediscovering the endless enthusiasm and curiosity they had when they were younger. Says Co-director Gigi Dobosenski “Individual project based education is about developing life long learners. These are the ideal students to succeed in the ever-changing world after high school.”

About Us: EdVisions Off-Campus High School is an online project based school serving students in grades 7-12 beginning in the fall of 2005. The proven success of project based learning will now be available to students throughout Minnesota.

Contact Info:

phone Keven Kroehler at 800-617-7857

write to EOCHS, Box 307, Henderson, MN 56044

Additional: EdVisions Off-Campus High School is approved by the Minnesota Department of Education as District 4151.

# # #

about the author