News Briefs

KMS adopts “blended learning,” giving student-athletes academic advantage

KILLINGTON—Students may have walked in the doors at Killington Mountain School (KMS) on Aug. 29, but school actually commenced for the 2016-2017 year on Aug. 8, when all student-athletes were invited by their teachers to log into their Google Classrooms for each of their courses and begin completing work. Students of all athletic disciplines logged in and began completing work, whether at home, at the beach for vacation with their families, or traveling the world.
That meant that the students arrived on campus ahead of the game this year, a trend that should continue both during the school year and over subsequent summers.
Head of School Tao Smith explained the blended learning approach: “Blended learning, which takes the best of bricks and mortar instruction and combines it with the use of technology and various online platforms, enhances our ability to deliver content to students and makes learning more fun exciting and engaging; what makes blending learning blended, is that it allows students to control to some degree, the time, place and pace at which they learn. For our students at KMS this is critical because they spend so much traveling, and under pressure from competition and training which could otherwise hinder their ability to learn. We are really excited about the possibility that blended learning opens up for our student-athletes at the Killington Mountain School.”
“With all the traveling that our students do all year long, it’s only logical to find a way to help them both receive and progress in their academic content when not in the building, and also to help them get ahead in their work,” commented Amy Allen, the school’s academic dean. “If we can utilize all tools available to us to aid the students so that they get to a place where they are caught up or ahead in their academic work, it means that when they are on the road competing, they can direct their focus solely on the pursuit of athletic excellence, or that on a day with spectacular conditions, they can perhaps stay out on the hill in the afternoon and get in a few more runs with their coaches before returning to school; this opens up a lot of doors to our student-athletes.”
Alpine athletes who were in training at Saas-Fee, Switzerland, over the summer, spent time in the evenings logged into their Google Classrooms and completing academic work, with some of the assignments pertaining directly to the geography, history, and geology of the Swiss glacier upon which they were training.
Inspired by an academic summit at the school this spring featuring Charles Fadel, the founder and chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign, KMS embarked upon the process of evolving the school’s curriculum toward a 21st-century approach. In doing so, Smith and the faculty also re-imagined the school’s Seminar Series project, a multi-year investigative program that engages all KMS students in the study of the world around them.
The Seminar Series is broken up into faculty-led groups by grade level, with each grade focusing on a different theme. The middle school’s focus will be local, taking a look at Vermont through a historical and current lens, with the ninth grade examining the Geography Lottery, exploring what it means to be born in a certain area. Sophomores will look at Technology and the Environment, juniors at Disruption and Social Change, and seniors will complete an independent study.
The Seminar Series curriculum is supplemented by various publications such as The Week, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Wall Street Journal, and students will ultimately be responsible for written synthesis of material from the program along with presentations which will give them the opportunity to practice public speaking, making use of software like Google Slides.
In addition to implementing a blending learning approach in the curriculum, a block schedule was adopted, resulting in longer class periods. With 90-minute classes, teachers now have time for group projects, longer labs, experiments, excursions around or even off campus, time to get students going with their homework while being close by to help and guide them, and even cross-curricular work with other faculty and students.
“Flex Wednesdays” give students the time to sign up for extra help or schedule extracurricular activities.

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