IDEAS Academy doesn’t have finals. Finals, usually, are big examinations detailing everything learned at the end of a semester. When IDEAS students tell people that they don’t take these tests, there is generally some sort of disbelief of learning, like if we aren’t tested, we aren’t going to be prepared for the ‘real world’.
But what IDEAS does instead of finals prepares students for the real world better than checking that they can memorize facts thrown at them in a classroom. All IDEAS students, every year, are pushed to create two projects that showcase their passions.
Starting in September, students at IDEAS pick a discipline that they want to further explore. This could be a creative outlet, like dance or music, or an academic outlet, like science or history. From there, they construct a driving question. This question has to be open-ended; the answer can’t be a simple yes or no. That question is what pushes into the research phase, where students pick a type of essay to showcase what they’ve learned from professional models, news articles, and other resources in order to come up with an answer to their driving question. This semester, some driving questions were; “What is suburbia’s effect on our culture and our youth?” “How is suburbia portrayed in film and literature, and does that portrayal have any correlation to real life?” and “How do different aspects of human sexuality shape the way we look at different genders and races?”
The driving question, research, and essay feed into the creative process of the project. Students are advised by a teacher from their discipline throughout the creative process, but the execution of the project is completely student lead. In addition to the teacher’s feedback, students go through a workshop process where they show their project in its rough stages to their peers in order to revise and make their project the best it can be. The driving questions above lead into short films and concept art about suburbia and a performance art piece about hypersexuality.
After research, creation, and revision are finished, the students move on to presentation. IDEAS Academy has two times for presentation, called Exhibitions of Learning, in winter and spring. At Exhibitions, students present their projects to their peers, teachers, and community members. In the recent years, IDEAS Academy students have showcased work at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Jake’s Café, EBCO Artworks, and the Paradigm Annex.
As a junior at IDEAS, I’ve done four projects already. Currently, I’m half of a yearlong team working on a project of short films, art pieces, and creative writing about suburbia. I came from IDEAS partner middle school, Mosaic, so going into my freshman year, I had a pretty good handle of what was going to go on. I spent my freshman year doing visual art projects, one about upcycling and the other about feral children. Through doing those projects, I figured out that visual art wasn’t something I really wanted to go into. In my sophomore year, I started my first film project, and figured out that that was something I wanted to pursue, driving me to work on the short films this year. Being pushed to work on the things that I want to learn more about has helped me to think more about what I want to do in the future.