Philosophy + History + Mission
An educational philosophy developed as a result of our lab. Our objective is capable, thriving learners – engaged and invigorated, capable of reaching their potential and benefiting from the best of themselves, ultimately sharing their innate talents, individuality and well rounded perspective with a world community.
This objective is at the top – a roof, a pinnacle. At the bottom is a foundation of security – security which is offered by nurturing adults and a safe and social community. Above the foundation are three essential pillars. The first pillar: independence and flexibility. The second pillar: creativity. The third pillar: limitless approaches to knowledge and experience – variety. This is a philosophy ultimately taught to us by the students themselves. Students thrive given these essential elements in their education and when these elements are available, students beg for more.
When allowed to learn in an environment that not only allows for these elements, but encourages them, students take ownership; they are happy and soar above benchmarks.
Our objective in education should be to produce capable, engaged, thriving learners. Capable learners are confident. They naturally think critically and creatively. They believe in themselves as intelligent beings who can problem solve, invent and gain knowledge. They adhere to their interests with fervor, wanting to know more, wanting to grow and develop their skills.
Engaged learners display much of the above. They dig in and enjoy their time within a lesson or project. They are hungry for knowledge and excited to be involved in the process of learning. Thriving learners encompass everything a true student should. They are curious, eager to learn, and comfortable making mistakes. They are comfortable sharing their knowledge.
They thrive within an innate human desire to learn and grow – whatever the topic or skill may be.
Orsch’s secure environment starts with nurturing adults. Most teachers are nurturing people at heart and offer appropriate guidance and unconditional support. Nurturing adults understand developmental stages of growth. And they understand that home life, social life, and even hunger can make a big difference in academics.
A student was asked, before enrolling in Orsch, what percentage of his day was affected negatively by social interactions. His answer was 100%. Students are significantly affected by their peers. In Orsch an authentic community exists. Our community contains diversity. Diversity in opinion, strengths, weaknesses, interests, pacing, attention spans, skills, talents, personalities – you name it – we have it. This community is a family; we accept each other unconditionally.
Some say this is magic. Orsch feels like magic. However, magic comes with the stroke of a wand. This community is all strategy – implementable strategy.
The Three Pillars
Pillar I – Independence and Flexibility
Independence is possibly the most useful element. When a children are given freedom of space, time and choice, they have ownership and engagement in their tasks. Their learning is now in their hands. Independence is the beginning of a successful student-centered program and results in intrinsic motivation for achievement, accomplishments and learning.
Flexibility is a must – flexibility in timing, pacing, lesson levels, product expectations, and skill development – everything that goes on within a school and within a school day. Without flexibility, we adhere to sameness. If we don’t employ flexibility students cannot be creative; they cannot demonstrate independence.
Pillar II – Creativity
We are creative beings. Creativity is often encouraged in the realms of visual and performing arts and gets its time in gifted and talented classrooms. But it should be an element in every lesson and activity. Creativity must be encouraged and accepted in all that we do. Creativity must reign in assignments, projects, answers, questions, discussions and vision. Creativity must have no limits. When creativity is encouraged an everyday assignment is turned into a child’s natural playground. Monotony is turned into expressive results. New, innovative thoughts inspire, and nurture a love for learning and growth.
Creativity is one of the most motivating elements Orsch has discovered in students. Creative actions seem to offer some sort of natural boost. Creativity can be modeled and taught, but mostly it must simply be allowed for it to flourish.
Pillar III – Knowledge and Experience Delivered with Variety
Knowledge and experience seem obvious elements of an educational paradigm. However, it is the approach to gaining knowledge and experience that is Orsch’s third pillar. Orsch aims to deliver knowledge and experience in as many ways as possible – and then some. Decades of research tell us that innovative approaches such as experiential learning, project-based learning, hands-on activities, and whole brain-based learning are more effective than traditional lessons. A collaborative project teaches more than a worksheet or textbook chapter. If multiple approaches and opportunities for learning are offered, more students will engage and gain from experiences. More information will stick if it is creatively delivered. Howard Garnder’s Multiple Intelligences model suggests that each of us is a different learner. Orsch has discovered that not only is each student a different learner, each can be one type of learner at 9:00am and another type at 1:30pm. We aim to offer endless methods and therefore, will simply reach more students more effectively. Innovative approaches are a standard in Orsch – and we commit to looking for more.
In addition to Orsch offering innovative approaches and dynamic lessons, students are taught and encouraged to acquire knowledge through student-chosen methods. For example, some math students gravitate toward counting bears while others prefer a number line. Some students are able to memorize the 206 bones in the human body through flash cards and visuals while others choose to write a rap song. When limitless and student chosen options are offered, students have no barriers to success.
A note from Jackie
Students represent a diverse population of learners; we aim to mirror and honor that diversity.
It is easy to crush aptitude and the innate desire to learn in many of our brightest and most creative minds. We should, instead, encourage our young scientists, engineers, poets, scholars and artists to pursue these passions during their school years through a dynamic and creative approach to lessons, materials, and interaction.
Orsch participants benefit from a genuine community. Orsch participants benefit from hands-on, innovative options and engaging activities. Orsch participants benefit from a truly individualized atmosphere where there is no limit to their creativity, knowledge base, and individual passions.
Engaged, knowledgeable, happy, confident and intrinsically motivated students develop. Productive, well balanced people are the outcome.
Orsch is dedicated to finding and implementing supplements that work best for each student.
Children will always teach us how to teach if we listen. – Jackie Burt, 2009
The ideas started gelling in 1994. Freshly armed with her degree, Jackie Burt began teaching, and the ideas flowed. Ideas, some of which would prove revolutionary, but to a new teacher seemed obvious – a teacher who didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to think outside of the box. Then the ideas were tested, in many environments.
The ideas were tested in her multiage classrooms, they were tested in traditional classrooms, and they were tested in a gifted and talented program that gave her the freedom to experiment.
When Jackie stayed home for several years to start a family, they were tested in the multitude of daytime and summer programs she ran for local children. These programs centered on engagement, a theme that would become paramount in the coming years.
In 2003 Jackie returned to the classroom, and the paradigm was further distilled – because the students expressed their preferences, and because she listened. Changes were necessary; students were begging for them – and Jackie responded. The student-led approaches that would soon be Orsch were developed, and the mission was started – now she needed a place to allow it to happen.
The philosophy was an inclusive one: everyone should have the opportunity to participate – the logical choice was of course public education. However, public institutions change slowly – sometimes too slowly, so a lab school was born.
In 2009 Orsch, a modern one room schoolhouse, opened its doors to an excited student body – small at first, but with so much enthusiasm, word spread, students continued to enroll, and additional passionate teachers joined the mission…
Orsch is an acronym for “One Room SCHoolhouse,” an unconventional acronym for an unconventional program.
Although multiage practices are fairly common, combining students of such a broad age range in one room is – well, we can’t say it’s a ‘new’ idea, but hasn’t been done in a very long time.
Orsch was created to break the mold, to allow students to choose their own appropriate skill levels, their own areas of interests, and often their own methods of learning.
Jackie’s vision, a one room schoolhouse, was the perfect setting in which to offer students the dynamic approaches and unconventional methods they need, and it was a perfect setting in which to build a community of students who look out for each other, learn from each other, and teach each other.
What makes Orsch Orschy?
Several ideas embody the concept, a concept that is far from static.
Offer students a secure and safe environment – remove one of the biggest impediments to learning. Give them the freedom and independence to make choices – empower them to take ownership of their education. Encourage creativity in all they do. Then, find unique and fun ideas for teaching concepts. Allow students to discover and explore. Find the best of the best approaches (and keep looking). Purposefully bring multiple approaches, because one size does not fit all. Focus on engagement – once truly intrinsically motivated, students will show you what they need – listen to them.
Make it fun, make it exciting, and make it multiage.
Allow leadership to be a component – mentors, and mentees without regard to who is older. Allow flexible grouping, using as many different groups as necessary – don’t be bound by age (or “date of manufacturing” as Sir Ken Robinson puts it). Allow the natural windows of opportunity to let a child dive in deep when fully ready.
Encourage creativity and risk taking – America was built on this concept, but it is rare in many schools today.
What is Orsch up to now?
In 2020 – one of the silver linings of Covid – Orsch began its conversion to an online platform. Now Orsch is available with no regard to location!
Welcome to the online version of Orsch, the wonderful, modern one room schoolhouse!
Orsch strives to develop capable, thriving, engaged learners.
We provide community.
We provide engagement.
We provide great ideas and real solutions.
Our students feel valued, inspired, independent, and motivated!
Orsch offers a unique approach to engaging students. Our tried and true, student-centered materials and activities offer students independence, flexibility, creativity, and fun experiences, leading to capable, thriving, engaged learners. Orsch’s approach to student involvement creates an atmosphere of belonging and community, helping every student feel more confident, valued, and honored within their own unique skills and character.
Orsch’s custom-made products are designed to directly help students, parents, and teachers by targeting learning objectives with Orschy engaging, creative solutions.
Orsch’s forums, surveys, and consultation services help the world of education think more creatively about serving students.
Orsch’s approach involves constant input and feedback from our involved community; we continue to evolve and adapt based on the needs of our students, parents, and educators.