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Teaching Beyond Textbooks Hosts Inaugural Summer Institute

Local Nonprofit Participates in Movement Away From Standardized Learning


Teaching Beyond Textbooks, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit, is hosting its inaugural Summer Institute at Montecito Union School on August 9.

Teaching Beyond Textbooks was founded last year by Jennifer Wilson, a teacher of eleven years. Wilson currently works at Montecito Union School. The organization means to encourage critical thinking and cultivate “civilly responsible problem solvers,” according to its website.

“We intend to bring routines and strategies to teachers so they can understand how students engage and learn as thinkers,” said Adam Wilson, development director of Teaching Beyond Textbooks.

Jennifer learned of this approach to teaching at a week-long program at Harvard University called Project Zero. The Project Zero mission, according to its website, is to “understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels.” She was, however, unsettled by the lack of diversity among the teachers in attendance.

“What I found was that many of the teachers that were present were from more affluent neighborhoods. I came back and decided there was a real need in all parts of Santa Barbara to give teachers these strategies. The teachers [Adam and I] have been working with love what we’re doing,” said Jennifer.

Ron Richhart, bestselling author, Senior Research Associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the principal investigator for the Cultures of Thinking Project, will be the keynote speaker at the Summer Institute. More than 100 teachers from the Santa Barbara area are attending, in part because the Santa Barbara school district made it a requirement that at least one teacher from each elementary school attend.

“I’ve been a teacher for eleven years, and when I learned about these techniques about five years ago, I understood,” said Jennifer. “When I found out how to do implement this, I realized we’re definitely going away from standardized learning.”

For more information, visit teachbeyondtext.org

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