NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — The 300 students at Kent Innovation High School Tuesday, Sept. 3, are experiencing a cutting edge way of learning 21st-century skills, including problem solving, critical thinking, innovation and creativity.The unique lab school, at 1655 East Beltline Ave. NE, has added a new class of 100 freshmen and a $2.8 million, 12,856-square-foot expansion to house grades 9-11. Opened in 2011, the school plans to add a 100 students each year until grade 12."Project-based learning is all about creating relevancy and rigor," said Jeff Bush, a 11th grade civics teacher, about the school that serves as incubator of innovation for the other Kent County schools."Every project has some type of real world application to engage students."For example, Bush and English teacher Elaine Shalla’s students will study the Constitution particularly freedom of speech, by spending nearly month this semester on the "Snowden Project."Students, who attend the school from various districts, will be studying the case of Edward Snowden, the fugitive former contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) who leaked federal information and faces espionage charges.Shalla said students will analyze the Constitution and previous court cases on espionage and Freedom of Speech, comparing at least one case to Snowden. She said the class will write an essay and create a video taking a stance on the subject for the thefire.org.The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) mission is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities."The focus here is on student engagement and innovation," said Bush.The environment helps to stimulate the learning with white board walls, seamlessly integrated technology and flat screen displays everywhere.The expansion created three, state-of-the-art classrooms, a studio and an open lab. There are also 130 new laptops. The building is now a total of 27,783-square-feet.Students spend two thirds of their day at the new school focusing on their core subjects but return to their home school for lunch, electives and extracurricular activities.