Contributed by Mr. Patrick Misterovich, Summit Prep Upper School Teacher

The infamous student question, “When will I ever need this in real life?” hints at a few assumptions. One, ‘school’ and ‘real life’ are two distinct things. Two, what we learn in school should be relevant to our lives. John Dewey himself would approve of the fundamental challenge to our schools inferred by the question. So how do we respond to this question? How do we make learning relevant and connected to our students lives?

Traditionally high schools tried to keep all learning experiences inside their walls. The school was a self-contained community that didn’t directly engage with the world at large. No wonder students had to ask an adult about the relevance of their learning. They couldn’t see the real world from where they were sitting.

Increasingly, schools across the country, including The Summit, are exploring ways to break down the barriers between school and community. The Summit high school program was founded with the goal of connecting students to the Springfield community through internships, service learning, and college campuses.

In the first five years of The Summit high school we have had students intern at veterinary clinics, law offices, small businesses, the Springfield Symphony, the Springfield Little Theatre, and Drury’s Athletic Department. We have had students volunteer at Ronald McDonald house, the American Red Cross, local churches, and local schools. We have had students design summer camps and after school programs, put on conferences, develop technology training programs, and create mentorship groups. We have had students attend classes alongside college students at Missouri State, OTC, and Drury.

One of the goals of The Summit high school program is to prepare students to transition from ‘school’ to the ‘real world’. That isn’t something that you can just tack on for their senior year. It must be part of the culture of the school. By connecting the classroom with the community and letting our students learn outside our classroom walls we hope the question “When will I ever need this?” answers itself.

 

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