Internships Build A Passion for Learning at The Met (Transcript)
Narrator: Clarence Wells spends two days a week rebuilding racing cars. Evelyn Sanchez spends her Tuesdays and Thursdays working at a veterinary hospital. And Chandelle Wilson helps run a non-profit arts center. These aren't part-time, afterschool jobs, but school day internships that allow students to pursue their own passions in real-world learning situations.
Chandelle: If we apply for 75, what exactly can we get done with that?
Narrator: The internship program is just part of a unique high school concept launched in 1997 in Providence, Rhode Island at a school called The Met.
Dennis: You just think about how people learn. They learn when they love something. They learn when they have a passion, when they're interested in something. They learn-- subjects aren't broken down. You kind of think of home schooling. If you're home schooling your kid, you wouldn't put them in a living room for 45 minutes and then ring a bell and move them to the kitchen and study science for 45 minutes, and ring a bell. You'd have them meet great people, read great books, do real stuff, and so that's how we said let's see if we can create a school.
Chandelle: The word "passion," you know, like finding your passion. I've never even heard of it until I came to The Met. I'd be like, "And what are you talking about?"
You're crazy. Like, I don't know. I'm fourteen. So I didn't really know what to expect. I think everything kind of happened accidentally.
Oh, look at the red cardinals.
Narrator: For Chandelle, the happy accidents began when she met her first mentor, photographer Therese Grente.
Chandelle: I-- she had a 35 millimeter.
Chandelle: My best experiences were when I found someone who was able to have enough time to work with me instead of just giving me work to do. When I was with Therese, it was great. When I had a question, it was her that I went back to. It wasn't someone else.
Therese: Kind of tell. So you'll visually start seeing all that, like with the negative.
Chandelle: We had good times. We were able to talk to each other. It's just very personal.
Charles: So how far have you gotten so far? So let's say..
Narrator: The Met's personalized learning philosophy begins with its size. It accommodates just 150 students who spend two days working at their internships, and the other school days in a small advisory group at school. Fifteen students work with one teacher, who helps them create individual learning plans and supervises their independent studies over the course of four years.
Charles: Now is there a conclusion of some sort?
I've gotten to know each one of them, each one of their learning styles, their family situations, how they tick. I know when they're turned on to something, when something's going on with them. It becomes sort of a family, and they all refer to our advisory here as some sort of semi-dysfunctional family, but everyone cares about each other.
You were doing the same shot at different exposures.
Chandelle: It's called equal exposure depth of field stuff.
I think having a relationship like that with your teacher definitely helps. It helps me learn because I can ask him a question. "You know, I don't understand this, please explain it to me," without feeling embarrassed or scared.
And this one's of my brother floating in a pond. It was another spur of the moment thing.
Narrator: There are no tests or letter grades here. Instead, students study core academic subjects by conducting research..
Student: I talked to some people up at Brown University..
Narrator: ...completing projects and giving presentation to their parents, mentors, and students in thier advisory.
Charles: By the time they apply to college they've had 12 exhibitions, 13 exhibitions. They're amazing presenters.
Chandelle: You can use your fingers in the water to work it off of the paper backing here.
Charles: They blow people away at interviews. They have portfolios, they have resumes. They have a way to show the quality work that they've done.
Chandelle: But here you have a Polaroid emulsion transfer.
Narrator: The Met claims an impressive graduation rate, especially for a population of at-risk students, 90 percent of whom go on to college. So The Met concept has spread beyond Providence to more than a dozen other cities including Oakland, California where Evelyn Sanchez interns at a local veterinary clinic.
Evelyn: I really like being here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I even come on the weekends and I get paid. I want to pursue veterinary in the future, hopefully when I get out of high school.
Okay. Turn on the anaesthesia machine.
I would love to go to UC Davis. I know that it's a very competitive school, but that's what I want to do in the future. I want to hopefully become a doctor.
Elena: Good boy. So we'll let him soak and then we're going to go do the neuter. Push him toward the wall.
Elena: In high school, you know, what were you going to do when you grow up? Who knows? You know, I think it's better for the kids because they have more of a track to follow, and she knows now that you have to keep your grades up from ninth grade on, even before that. They don't just look at your last year, where when we were in high school it was more like oh just goof off and do whatever, and then towards the end, pick it up.
Narrator: At an East Oakland body shop, Clarence Wells is studying math and science while rebuilding racing cars.
Clarence: I've learned a lot about cars, like how math relates to real-world stuff. I've been taking a physics class, and that's tied in a lot with the stuff I do here. I wrote a paper about, like, aerodynamics and I'm learning a lot of stuff about that. My logic's getting better, and like, being able to analyze something and solve problems. Also what's important is how fast and efficient I can do stuff, so like I think about that more and I'm like, doing homework. Like what's the most efficient way I can get this done?
Narrators: Mentors like Dan and Karen Gallant believe the value of Met internships goes well beyond the work that's done.
Karen: There are so many people that are adrift, and the schools don't have any money for a lot of programs. They certainly don't have any money for vocational programs, as you've probably heard. And I think this gives them a chance to learn different skills and also to learn what they might really want to pursue as a career.
Chiem: I'm still learning, so that's one of the good things. Being at Met West is good. They gave me opportunity to come here and pursue my dreams and stuff.
Daniel: They're having to learn to be responsible for things they wouldn't normally be responsible for until they got a job. And we're not whip-crackers or anything like that, but we do have a fairly high standard that we want things done to.
Narrator: While Met West's curriculum is anything but standard, the school measures up on standardized tests.
Matt: We don't do a lot of test prep, but we do take the tests very seriously. Our seniors have the highest pass rate on the California High School Exit Exam in both English and math, for all schools in Oakland unified. And I think part of this is because we are a small school, we know our students well. We know what they do well, and we know what they need improvement on, and we're able to tailor some individual curriculum to meet those needs.
Charles: I watch them find this passion and develop from these angry, young kids to these positive, socially conscious, academically high-achieving kids who are doing things not because I tell them to do it, but because they are just hungry for it.
Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to Edutopia.org