Students in Garden Valley drive their own education. They can decide what classes to take and when and how to take them. The master schedule in Garden Valley is unconventional. It’s not based on what staff can teach, but instead based on what the kids need or desire.
“It’s our responsibility to find ways to provide a quality and fulfilling education,” said superintendent Randy Schrader.
Garden Valley is breaking down the walls of a traditional education offering — literally. Students are no longer restricted to what the handful of rural teachers are certified to teach. Because of technology, the learning opportunities are now limitless.
“We didn’t have any other choice here but to become experts in technology; to know what’s out there and anticipate what’s next,” Schrader said. “We want to be a high-tech high school while keeping the standards tight.”
In efforts to become a high-tech high school, Garden Valley is updating its infrastructure so the district is wireless from parking lot to playground and everyone has access to the internet. The staff created the Garden Valley Digital Learning Academy, which now has 60 students enrolled. Garden Valley has 235 students in grade K-12.
The Academy allows students to take any class they want — Mandarin Chinese, Religion or European History. It also keeps students enrolled full-time in the district — they don’t have to go to other education institutions to enroll in online classes.
Schrader teaches a first-period, on-line class of 22 students, who are taking a variety of topics, including economics, government, health and U.S. history. About 15 students per period are learning online. Six middle school students are taking high school level classes. A seventh grader is taking U.S. history for graduation credits. A 12-year-old is enrolled in freshman-level classes.
“We’ve given students their choices. One student took all science classes this year because that’s what he is interested in,” said secondary science teacher Bob Powell. “We’ll have to adapt next year so he can fulfill graduation requirements, but this year we’re focused on what he’s interested in to help him build a career path.”
The teachers in Garden Valley are learning new teaching styles with different tools to adapt to the needs of the students. Most classes have laptops or iPads. Every secondary teacher in Garden Valley is certified to teach dual credits (college-level classes).
“Randy started the spark and the wildfire took off,” said technology director Pat Goff.
Math teacher John Haworth has videoed his own mini, online-learning modules for students to watch on their own time. He then provides instruction with a “flipped” learning model and becomes a coach or mentor instead of a lecturer. Instead of the Khan Academy, the world-reknown learning platform, Garden Valley has the John Academy.