What Exactly is EAST?
As corny as it sounds, EAST is a different approach to education during an era of excessive standardized testing. The class has roots in the corporate world as an initiative started at Google in the early 2000’s , in which management let the software engineers pursue “passion” projects with 20% of their time at work. This initiative, and some very talented employees, resulted in the creation of Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Glass among many others. It is based on the very simple idea that passion drives effort and motivation.
While 20% time or “Genius Hour” time has become very popular in the last 3-5 years in education, EAST has been perfecting a culture of passion-based learning for nearly 20 years. EAST’s educational roots can be traced to a former law enforcement officer, Tim Stephenson, and a high school classroom in Greenbrier, Arkansas. He challenged students to use technology tools to solve problems around their community.
The last major influence on the class is the book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink. It a fantastic read about how autonomy, mastery, and purpose “drive” us to do some very amazing things. I would highly recommend this excerpt video that specifically speak about how these 3 factors lead to better performance and satisfaction: Daniel Pink – Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose
This academic year marks the 15th year of EAST at Heyworth High School. While the class has evolved drastically over the those 15 years, the core belief has remained the same. Students equipped with the right tools and a little guidance can accomplish amazing things. Students have preserved local history, fed the hungry, broadcast events to people watching in other states and countries, raised thousands of dollars for the families of several Tremont High School students tragically killed in a car accident, St. Jude’s, the American Cancer Society, Autism research, Wounded Warriors, and the Humane Society, created an iPhone app, promoted safe driving and healthy lifestyles, created original maps and virtual tours, written a children’s book, and many, many other things over the last 15 years.
How does EAST work?
Step #1 – Brainstorming
At the beginning of the project, students will brainstorm ideas for a project proposal. Students may work alone, but are encouraged to work in groups of 2-3. No group will be larger than 3 unless the scope of the project dictates it. Students are encouraged to choose a project and group based on their own interests, and not just the interests of their friends. Students will focus on identifying problems in their community/world that they would like to solve.
Step #2 – Proposal
Once the project team has identified a topic that inspires them, students must research the problem and possible solutions. They create a short video proposal and will “pitch” the project to me and the class for approval. In the proposal, students will need to answer the following questions:
- What is your project?
- Who will work with you on this project? What will each member work on?
- Who will benefit from this project?
- What will you need to research to be successful?
- Why is this project worthwhile?
- What specifically do you expect to learn from this project?
- What “product” will you have to show when you are finished?
- What expenses will you have, and how will you cover them?
- What equipment will you need?
- What is your general timeline for completing/launching project?
A proposal will need to be submitted for each project from a project group. A short checklist for the proposal can be found here: EAST Video Proposal Checklist.
Step #3 – Planning/Completion of Tasks
Once a project has been approved, students will create a plan with long-term, weekly and daily deadlines. Students are expected to document the progress that they have made via pictures, video, screen captures, etc. Projects that will take students more than a few weeks carry a higher risk of failure. It is imperative that students make adequate plans.
Step #4 – Blog/Twitter
Each week, every member of every project group will be responsible for writing a public blog and linking that blog to Twitter. There are two types of blog posts:
- Milestone Feedback – Students will create a post documenting the completion of a major project milestone
- Milestone Progress – Students will post about their progress towards a major project milestone.
All blog posts will provide a forum for peer, mentor, or instructor feedback.
Step #5 – Project Presentations
At the end of each project, each team will give a presentation to students, teachers, administrators, mentors, community members and other stakeholders where they can show off their work. This will will need to be carefully written, choreographed, and rehearsed. These TED-style presentations will be recorded and posted online.
Students and groups that are working on long-term projects, must present a progress update at least once a quarter. This presentation will illustrate the progress that has been made towards the goals of the project.
Other Important Information
A general weekly routine is detailed below:
Monday – A portion of each Monday will be set aside for a whole class meeting with the focus on brainstorming, collaboration, and peer feedback.
Tuesday – Thursday – Students will spend the majority of their time researching their problem, contacting their mentor(s) and working on their project tasks.
Friday – The major focus on Friday is feedback and communication. Students will spend a portion of each Friday completing their blog.
Each team will be responsible for finding an adult mentor to help guide their project. This mentor could be a teacher, parent or family friend. However, students should strive to find an expert. The mentor will serve to offer advice, provide informal leadership, follow progress through the students’ blogs and twitter posts, and give feedback where appropriate.
At the end of each semester, each student’s blog will be evaluated. Students must provide adequate proof of completion for project tasks in addition to showing growth through reflection and learning. Additionally, students will complete a semester reflection. A rubric and specific instructions will be provided.