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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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It's All About the Curricula: Designing a Student-Centered Program

On my career-academy journey, which has spanned the last twenty years, I have found that the most demanding and difficult aspect of career-academy development is the curricula. A successful career academy must include rigorous and relevant project-based learning.

If you are what you eat, then, using that same logic, teachers are what they teach. We should be incorporating meaty, nurturing project-based curriculum in our classes. Project-based learning, according to the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), is "a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks."

In the Health Careers Academy, which I pioneered in California in 1986, curricula that inspired and built on a student's interest was our goal for curriculum integration. We wanted curricula that promote discovery learning, curricula that not only covered the subject matter but also promoted depth and understanding, curricula that utilized real-world application and promoted critical thinking and problem solving -- in short, student-centered curricula.

Last year, I ran across curriculum that met all the above-mentioned goals: that of the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies (Ford PAS). It's not about cars or manufacturing; it's about problem solving and critical thinking using the lens of business as the focus. Because career academies have the freedom to flavor academic subjects with a relevant career theme and enrich career and technical courses with rigorous, infused academic content, the Ford PAS curriculum is a perfect match. (Some of you readers may think business curriculum should not be included in a health academy, but let me make it clear that health care today is a business and that students who understand this fact have a better chance to succeed in the industry.)

If you want engaged students in your class, go to the FordPAS.org Web site and download the free curriculum.

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