School of the Future
May 23, 2019
The world is changing and developing at a fast rate, many new jobs and career choices are being invented everyday. Although this can be a way to improve our society, this creates a problem with how current schools are run. The atmosphere, curriculum, technology, health, and sleeping habits teens learn in school are not changing at the same rate as the new careers the world is producing.
What would the school of the future look like if we started from scratch?
To learn more about how a future school should look we consulted many Hershey High School students and teachers through interviews and surveys. Also, we researched using many online resources like The Harvard School of Public Health, Chicago Tribune, and The Atlantic.
Atmosphere of the Future
As the world is growing and adapting, the atmosphere of today’s schools are drastically changing, too.
Hershey High School junion Sarah O’Shea and freshman Allie Balcomb believe that the atmosphere of the school needs to be improved by building better teacher student connections, reducing stress, and creating more individualized learning.
Technology can change the atmosphere and the way students interact with their teachers. Previously, teachers’ and students’ only means of communication was face-to-face during school hours, but now with new technology, teachers and students can communicate at all hours of the day. This shift can cause a major impact on the atmosphere of the school.
Teachers and students are losing the personal face to face connection, but they are gaining online communication at any time of the day. In order to gain back the face to face communication in schools, students and teachers should not be able to communicate electronically while at school. The teachers and students should be able to talk during study hall, class periods, lunches, and before and after the bells ring.
Balcomb, a student in a number of Honors-level classes, said, “I have a few teachers I can come to with questions, but there could be more individual conversations between each student and teachers.”
Many schools, including Salisbury School, are striving to grow the connections between students and teachers. According to a blog post by Salisbury School, they believe all students should have “a number of trusted adults in school to have face to face interactions.”
At HHS, many students deal with pressures in a fast paced, competitive environment, and this atmosphere can cause anxiety and depression. If a student has a trusted adult in school, they can express how their feeling and gain advice from them. The standards at Hershey High School are extremely high, and the students have to keep up with rigorous course loads.
“Many students at HHS feel the need to be enrolled in as many honors level courses as possible, and they want to be involved in as many activities to fill their resumé,” said O’Shea.
Many students are looking to better their college application and have the best resumé as possible. Metta McGarvey, a lecturer on education at Harvard University expressed from her experiences that students in high performing schools are more likely to feel the pressure to succeed and take as many AP classes as possible, which contributes to high anxiety and stress.
“There is this sense that you have to check everything on the list in a way that is going to support your college applications and where you want to go. So I think there’s a lot of self-generated pressure and perfectionism regard,” said McGarvey.
According to Education Week, Honors and AP level classes will always bring students stress; however, the amount of the stress can be reduced by a few simple tasks. A reduction in homework will give students more time for their extracurriculars and relaxation after school hours. Some students have an hour of homework in each class everyday, and that amount of work, plus extra curriculars, can be overwhelming.
“The amount of homework I have each night varies, but in some classes I can be guaranteed to have an hour of homework each night,” said Balcomb.
Many students will be interested in putting in effort into their school work if the schools begin to allow students to learn the information they truly want to engage with. Many teachers and administrators believe that the world is becoming more about individualized learning. This will give students the power to take action into their schooling experience.
This individualized learning can include blended classes.
“Blended classes will expand the walls of the classrooms,” said HHS English teacher Michelle O’Brien.
Adding additional choices to the way the way students learn will only better the atmosphere of our school system. The atmosphere in schools of the future will give their students the power to make the best out of their schooling experience and the topics they want to learn and discuss.
“In my classes, we are assigned more projects with choice. Which makes me actually want to complete the project and learn about the topic,” said O’Shea.
Another solution to helping students better their mental health and the atmosphere in their school is to give students more time to relax throughout their stressful day. The current way schools are run is a stressful and competitive environment, and this atmosphere is negative to the mental health of students.
At HHS, students from 7:38 am to 2:33 pm have one 30 minute lunch break and a few other students have one study hall. Students take 7 to 8 classes a day. Their day can be jammed packed with tests, projects, essays, and learning new material, leaving many with little to no breaks throughout their day. In addition, many HHS students have sports, clubs, or work directly after school giving them no time to relax and destress. The school of the future must give students’ time to rest their brain.
In an informative book written by clinical neuropsychologist William Stixrud,“The Self Driven Child,” he discusses the idea of having breaks in the school day. He states how it important breaks are for the development of students. A high stress environment can have massive long lasting effects. Stixrud responds to this issue by showing the benefits of the work-rest-work cycle. This cycle revolves around the idea that students should work and learn, and then should be allowed time to rest their brain.
In HHS, the work-rest-work cycle could give students an additional three to five minute break at the end and beginning of classes. A student would have more time to relax, use the restroom, or grab something to eat before starting new material. This would give students the opportunity to prepare themselves for their next period and minimize their stress.
A study of 128 juniors at NYU found 49 percent of high-performing juniors reported they felt a “great deal of stress on a daily basis” and 26 percent reported symptoms of clinical depression. According to “The Self Driven Child,” the work-rest-work cycle has been found to help decrease the amount of stress in students’ lives.
Balcomb believes that at HHS there is not a lot of down time between classes. She said she even struggles to get from class to class in the four minute break. Increasing the amount of time in the hallway breaks will give students time to give their brain a break.
Another small solution to decrease students’ amount of stress is to accommodate for different learning locations. In a study, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that outside green space decreases anxiety and depression. The study was based on 195 registered doctors in 95 practices across the Netherlands, and they all reported green space to boost their moods and energy.
If additional green space was added at HHS, students could leave the walls of the classroom to learn in a different location. As of right now, students can only go outside for lunch, and there is not enough tables for everyone to eat outdoors. Adding additional green space will give students the opportunity to relax outdoors.
Currently in a school’s atmosphere, students have to deal with a high amount of stress, and reducing this stress will better the students’ daily lives. If a student has a pleasant experience at school, they will enjoy coming to school and make the best out of their day.
“Creating a better atmosphere for students and teachers at HHS will allow everyone to make the best out of their day and year,” said Balcomb.
Curriculum of the Future
Imagine a high school where each student could choose what they wanted to learn. Each student would decide their own schedule similar to how a college student does; however, due to the current rules placed on high schools today this idea is hard to achieve.
“In grades 9 through 12 every student graduating shall have completed 120 hours of instruction in the following 21 units of credit: 4 English, 3 Mathematics, 3 Science, 3 Social Studies, 2 Arts or Humanities or both, 1 Physical Education…” said The Pennsylvania Code These are four subject areas that have stayed the same since 1969.
The problem with this setup is that, “close to 4 million public-high-school students say they are not learning enough of the right things in school… many students have told me that they’re bored, uninspired, and unchallenged,” said author Russlynn Ali, managing director for education at Emerson Collective, writing in The Atlantic.
With many new interesting topics and ideas, many HHS students aren’t intrigued by the century-old methods that schools are still applying. Students would rather learn more about their interests and topics that would impact their future, so therefore they are bored learning about the “classic” school topics.
Some schools like Forest Lake Elementary School in Forest Hill, MD are trying to change curriculum to stop students from being uninspired.
“Though students typically have to wait until their third year of college to choose what they learn, the idea of K-12 education being tailored to students’ own interests is becoming more commonplace,” said Tina Barseghian from MediaShift
Forest Lake Elementary School is taking that idea, and making their school focused on personalized learning. Every student has an individualized plan that will help them learn the most that they can.
Since personalized learning would be a big change for all school districts, it will probably make advancements slowly across the United States. Whether classes like English start allowing students to pick more of their writing topics, or whole classes are created for interest driven work.Another aspect of curriculum that some want to change in the future is to start teaching foreign language to students at a younger age. “Compared to those without an additional language, bilingual children have improved reading, writing, and math skills, and they generally score higher on standardized tests.” said Lead with Languages, The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language.
Sophomore Kylie Wall who started learning Spanish in second grade at Saint Joan of Arc School in Hershey, PA said, “I definitely think that starting a language at a younger age has helped me comprehend the information easier.”
Some students like Wall have had the opportunity to start learning a foreign language from an earlier age, but other students only had that opportunity years later. This is common in our educational system, but it causes many students to be at different skill levels.
Wall thinks starting language at an early age is ideal, but some schools don’t have students start language until their first year in high school.
According to Hershey High School Spanish teacher Caitlin Kulesa, who taught Spanish at an elementary school during a semester in college said, “It was so amazing to see how quickly children can pick up the language.”
Physical Education is also a school subject that many students are required to take, but many want to see it revamped in the future. Even though many students are already exercising outside of the school setting, they are required to take a gym class every year. The gym period turns more into a free period at HHS full of socializing, rather than a period of actually exercising.
In 2017, Illinois changed their law on Physical Education requirements. One of the key changes was “starting in seventh grade, students involved in interscholastic or extracurricular athletic programs could skip PE,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
After this change, though many people were angry that students were not exercising at school, a lot of rules got switched back for more physical education classes being required again. Many parents and educators have mixed opinions on the value of PE classes. Going forward, many schools should alter PE classes with options to try to please both sides, but, for now, physical education is staying in school districts.
Curriculum has been making some slight changes throughout the years, but those changes aren’t being made as fast as our society and technology are changing. As the school system starts realizing that some aspects of curriculum are out of date, many aspects of schools may be begin to grow and change their curriculum. In a school of the future, all students will be educated to take on their day-to-day life and learn current concepts that will apply to their personal needs for preparing them for the future.
Educational Technology of the Future
“We’re entering an age of acceleration,” said Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist, “The models underlying society at every level, which are largely based on a linear model of change, are going to have to be redefined. Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress.”
With this astoundingly fast rate of change, old ways of teaching students to work with, learn with and create with technology need to change.
Those who have been involved in education within the past decade, educators and students alike, have witnessed a vast development in the technology utilized throughout the years. From chalkboards, to interactive whiteboards (SmartBoards), to smart televisions, the technology available in schools is continually expanding.
Although teachers will always play a vital role in the functionality of an educational environment, there is room for technology to enhance much of what has been developed to date. While it may sound unlikely now, as technology advances rapidly, we must wonder: can, and will, artificial intelligence replace some jobs of teachers?
In regards to the near future, it appears to be quite unlikely. However, as technology advances, it is very possible that we may see artificial intelligence utilized for including new elective courses, rather than completely replacing teachers of existing courses.
At the elementary level, introducing technology may generate caution in regards to the negative impacts of screens. According to the IMDA of the Singapore government, in Singapore a “Playmaker” program tackles this issue while integrating educational robots to 160 preschools. To refrain from the strains caused by overexposure to screens, these robots engage students, rather than have them passively tune into apps on devices. This provides the technological advancements in educational opportunities without sacrificing creativity, interaction, or engagement.
Within high schools, online classes, such as the various online language classes available here at Hershey High School, reduce the demand for foreign language teachers other than Spanish and French. However, there could already be issues arising from classes that do not meet in person. Mrs. Kindt, a French teacher at Hershey, says that communication and interaction are vital aspects of foreign language education, so online classes that do not have this aspect may not teach every important skill.
As online classes and even complete online schooling grow in popularity, it generates ambiguity as to whether full integration with technology in educational settings would be beneficial. A study of a school district in Germany revealed that months after receiving various new forms of technology, the school began to revert back to traditional learning styles, abandoning the advanced technology.
Exploring the middle ground, such as meeting in class every other day, helps us gather information about the possibilities for the future. Junior at HHS, Jamie Easterwood, says that her blended class–which meets in person every other day–is beneficial because it gives her freedom as to what she chooses works on during her study hall periods.
As to the idea of meeting very infrequently, around once a month, and completing all work in a study hall without an official teacher, Easterwood is apprehensive. She says, “I like blended classes because they only meet every other day, but I feel like any more time in between classes would be too much.”
While the technological advancements of our time may seem immense, there are countless possibilities to further develop upon the foundations that have been built. As difficult as it may be to predict these advancements, it is simple to say that the future educational system may stand in stark contrast to what we see today as a result of technology.
Sleep of the Future
Teenagers are known for their notoriously bad sleep schedules. Their nights are spent doing after school activities and homework until finally, they can settle in bed just to wake up in a few hours.
The majority of high schools in and around Hershey begin around 7:45 a.m. and end roughly at 2:30 p.m. Some students lose even more sleep than others due to sports. According to a poll of several students at Hershey High School (HHS), they wake up anywhere from 5:00 a.m. for morning practices to 6:45 a.m. to barely early enough to catch the bus.
HHS health teacher Jamie Bean said teenagers need 9 hours of sleep a night
According to the Sleep Foundation, the lack of sleep can have major effects on a student’s performance. Side effects of minimal sleep can include lack of concentration and the inability to solve problems.
And not only are tired students an issue in school, but they are a hazard to others and themselves on their route to school. Bean said, “driving dreary is the equivalence of driving drunk.”
Yes, students going to bed late is a factor of their tiredness, however, bedtime is not something schools will ever be able to control. While schools can’t control when teens go to bed, they are starting to control something else: start times.
“Most teenagers are sleep deprived,” according to a study published by Developmental Neuroscience.
According to a study published in Developmental Neuroscience, both Franklin High School and Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington pushed their start time back about an hour so their students could benefit from more sleep. When students at University of Washington heard about the switch that was about to be made, they decided to conduct a study.
The first part of the study in the Spring of 2016 would entail a two week period where 92 high school sophomores at two separate schools in the same level biology would wear wrist monitors and keep sleep journals to track their sleep. Additionally, their grades would be collected and recorded to have a baseline comparison.
Next, after the change was made, the study was continued that 2017 with 88 different students in that same class level. These students also wore wrist monitors and kept sleep diaries.
The study found that indeed, there were improvements. The class average went up 4.5% in that one biology class. The effects of going to bed earlier is a chain effect linked by strong evidence.
Schools are beginning to become more and more competitive with each other, and they are doing all they can to get ahead and have the best name they possibly can. Eventually, a time will come where the standards rise, and schools are left with no other option than to think untraditionally and outside the box.
Changing the curriculum will no longer cut it, adding more technology will no longer be feasible, but what will be attainable is a later start time.
Health of the Future
The key to developing healthy habits is education beginning at a young age. According to statistics, our country needs this education, and needs it quickly.
In regards to physical health, as of 2018, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that 20.6% of 12-19 year olds are obese in the United States. And, though it seems like a small increase, obesity rates in adolescents are up 5.8% since 2000.
A majority of schools offer a gym class, however, two 40 minute gym classes in a six day cycle is not enough to keep teens avoiding the epidemic. The difference and impact will occur in what teachers teach the students, not what they have the students do during the short time period.
The Harvard School of Public Health emphasizes the importance of educating students about nutrition, along with the importance of providing what they need to maintain the healthy lifestyle that is being promoted.
Although there is no way of getting around a student’s freedom of choice once they hit the lunch line, schools can make an effort to offer healthy options.
Along with offering healthier options, schools need to carve out the time for a separate class set aside strictly for wellness. A health class that encompasses the teaching of all seven aspects of wellness will set the students up for success.
Studies show that healthy students learn better, and if schools are striving for higher achievement percentages, they will do all they can to get ahead, which will include a health class. To backup the much needed push for overall wellness in schools, the CDC says that physical activity has been linked to better standardized test scores, cognitive performance, and attendance.
Additionally, a new awareness for mental health has risen in more and more conversations and is beginning to be talked about with great importance. Issues regarding mental health are becoming more common in the high-pressured society of 2019.
Studies have shown how mental illnesses can bleed into everyday life, and for teens, school is a part of everyday life. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American, anxiety and depression disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Anxiety and depression are among the most treatable mental illnesses once identified. The issue is, many go undiagnosed or untreated, leaving teens wondering why they can’t focus or are unable to perform well on important tests.
A school can play a huge part of making their students feel supported and valued. Just like the power of teaching about physical health, the power of teaching about mental health is very beneficial and much needed.
David Susman, a clinical psychologist and mental health advocate, writes that the first step to fixing mental health issues is “Greater Awareness” and after that “Public Education.” He emphasizes that the education should start in elementary school and continue to the level of college. Ideally, each class would help the learner navigate common difficulties of their current age.
Shortly following his first and second steps, Susman writes that inclusion falls into number three and collaboration falls into number four. Public education is what opens the door to both these steps. Openly discussing mental health in the classroom creates a safe space and encourages healthy conversations regarding mental illnesses.
Schools will not only want healthier students, but they will need them. Teaching health will provide schools with the edge they are looking for.