Ten years ago, MIT engineer Kelly Smith began volunteering at his local library teaching computer programming to neighborhood kids along with his 8-year-old son, and asking the question: “How do kids learn?” Impressed by their desire to learn in an individualized, informal setting, Smith founded the Prenda micro school, now operating in all 50 states.
“Prenda” is Portuguese for “gift”, similar to the Spanish word “aprender”, meaning, “to learn.” From their website, the organization believes “learning is a gift”.
Smith explains the way children have learned for generations in traditional classrooms doesn’t work anymore:
“If you think about the history of education, tens of millions of kids in America being educated in a class of 20 to 30 students, there’s a model that’s not tailored to individual learners.”
“A micro school is different, both in size and objective. “A micro school is a group of up to 10 kids meeting in an informal space and taking ownership of their own learning,” explains Smith.
At the start of every school year, each child sets a year-long goal. The child then uses that goal to plan. There are no teachers, only “guides.”
“We call the adult in charge of a microschool a learning guide,” says Smith. “Instead of being the one transmitting information, their role really is to help these young people develop into learners.”
Smith adds state requirements are met with Prenda:
“We give you a whole learning model,” Smith says. “It includes all the English, math, and science and social studies that kids need to be learning.
Micro schools and other innovations in education are the subject of a day-long event September 23rd in Overland Park, sponsored by Kansas Policy Institute, parent company of the Sentinel, the VELA Education Fund, and the National Hybrid Schools Project.
The program will feature Kerry McDonald, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and a senior education fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education.
The event will include panel discussions and addresses from experts on such topics as:
- School choice legislation
- Hybrid schools
- Overcoming opposition to micro schools
- Empowering parents in their children’s education
- Educational innovation in rural America
There is no cost to attend.