Bri, Haley, & Gussie, 11th Grade Students, UT
Haley, Bri, and Gussie are juniors at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE). They're best friends and thoughtful, motivated students. RE-ENVISIONED visited SLCSE as part of our School Spotlight #schoolstour, which aims to understand school communities in more depth. We loved every moment at SLCSE. You can find more posts from SLCSE by searching #slcse on the "A New Conversation" page.
The first question is just about you guys. How would your friends and family describe you?
All: We’re all best friends…so…
Gussie: I think I can better describe you all than myself, actually. Haley first? Haley, she’s hilarious. She’s very funny. Quick-witted. She likes to join in with what’s going on, very conversational.
Bri: Haley, I would say very dedicated to school and dedicated to the things she enjoys. She really enjoys soccer and she’s very dedicated to that. All of the classes I have with her she works really hard and makes sure that knows what’s going on. She seeks help when she needs it—she’s not afraid to ask for help.
G: Bri, she’s very outspoken, but in a great way. She’s very passionate and driven. What she sets her mind to, she gets done one way or another. She’s very hardworking in school and out of school.
Haley: If she’s given something, she goes the extra mile, does all this extra stuff with it. She goes above and beyond with everything.
B: My mom would say that she’s very proud of who I am, and always thinking about my future and how every decision I make reflects that.
B: Gussie is very intelligent, the smartest one in our friend group.
H: She rides horses, she does barrel racing, track, she’s very athletic, a typical student-athlete, and really close with her family…maybe a little too close (laughter).
B: Gussie is not afraid to share her opinion, even when others disagree. I know there are things we don’t agree on. If I say something, she’ll express her opinion without attacking me.
H: She’s good at seeing both perspectives of a situation or someone’s story, which is important.
Now take three of these Post-its and draw three things you want as an adult, when you're all grown up. What would make good lives?
B: I drew a pair of earrings that I made. It represents that by the time I’m 30 I want to have a successful business selling earrings that I make. All the earrings I design have a purpose in wearing them. I want to start this new idea that what you wear can express how you think about certain things or making a powerful statement or speaking up for people who haven’t had a voice. Most of my earrings have been feminist based. I have one for women of color who have hair like mine, and people like touching my hair, and it’s like don’t touch without asking me first.
I drew a world and little people because I’m really service oriented and I’ve thought about being a teacher somewhere other than America or America, which would fit into the service-orientation that I really enjoy. I went on a service trip to Cambodia and I really enjoyed the teaching part of the trip and offering that kind of hope for kids in third world countries.
Third, I'm leaving open because it's still in development, and also being to be able to make my own decisions and leaving the table open to what I want to do.
G: The first one I have is that I want to get my Ph.D., which represents education as a whole. I want to open a school one day. I have a large house. I want to build a home with someone that I love. My parents built their home together and we do a lot of home improvement and building together as a family, so that’s really special to me. Obviously with a barn, so I can keep my horses there.Last is that I’m close to my mom and dad's side of the family and I treasure that, so I want that to be a big part of my life. We have Sunday dinner together and I want that to continue.
H: I also want to build a house somewhere, I don't know where, with whoever I love, probably in Canada, let's be real. And then I’ll come back to Salt Lake and live here because I love it here. And then I was drawing a world, because this is such a hard question for me, and I literally change my mind every day. I went to Thailand where we got to teach kids about science, and it loved it. It was the coolest thing ever. This school really changed my life, and I want to do something like we do here over there. I love it so much, and it's so beneficial, and it's just amazing.
Say more. What is incredible about the education here?
The relationships I have with my teachers are incredible; I don’t feel uncomfortable to ask them for help. They just know me in a way that if you went to another high school they might only know your name, I know Mr. Crandall knows a lot about me and he knows about you guys and the teachers here just really care about our education and our well-being.
I want to bring the programs here to other countries, that would be really cool. Bri, for example, for her English lesson in Cambodia she laser-cut these little cars out of wood and had them assemble them there, and it was such an awesome idea!
Ideally, what do you think the role of schools should be to help you get to these good lives?
B: For me, all of these things have really come from this school. If I hadn’t gone here, I wouldn’t have started designing earrings because I didn’t think I could do art related things just because I couldn’t draw. I was opened up to the idea of digital art, being able to create that and hold art in your hands was something that I can do now and that I’m really good at because of a class here. The whole humanitarian thing came from our 6th grade teacher, she’s really involved in the program we did those trips with. When I got older I realized I enjoy teaching, and I was able to use that when I got to Cambodia to learn about the importance of teaching. I think my teachers have helped me develop these dreams and have given me the basis of starting to get after them. Schools should be inspiring kids to develop their dreams and encouraging them to chase after what they want.
G: Obviously as an 11th grader, I’ve got a ways to go before a completed PhD. I think one thing that this school has done for me that I hope education will do is to keep me inspired and motivated. Before I came to this school, science wasn’t taught in my elementary school. But the first day of 6th grade here, we did Bubble-ology, it was the coolest thing! We got to play with bubbles, but we were taking scientific measurements and learning cool lessons. The teachers here have done such a good job at keeping me motived. The opportunity to be inspired is key.
H: They offer this class called Advanced Science Research where you get to pick your science research project. I got to work at one of the labs in the University of Utah--the two teachers that teach the class push you really hard…there’s tears. Its hard. But it’s so worth it because at the end, you’re so proud of your project. I spent at least 50 hours working in that lab. It took me a long time to do. But having that support from our teachers, to have them push us, was amazing.
Why do you think we have schools as a society? Why does the government pay for school?
B: I would say its to better their society. From a government's perspective, having a more educated society, that's better for them so they can be filling the careers and making the government better and more profitable.
G: I love education.
I’m such a believer in strong minds create a strong person.
So you can get your basic reading and basic math so you can add or subtract change, but education gives you problem-solving skills or develop a strong work ethic. These are all things society needs if its going to be functional. It gives you so much even thought it might just be your subjects. Each subject teaches you skills that you need and while you're at, you might find a potential career, which will better society as a whole. You get those important skills-- problem solving, communication, working together, work ethic, motivation—and then you bring it to your society.
B: It's definitely more people skills, so that the society in general is more civil and not causing a lot of problems. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a big point in our schools right now, teaching those people skills that you’ll need in the world. Instead, their focusing on math, or science.
G: I think a big part of it is where we go to school. We do so much teamwork and collaboration, as well as independent work--you’ve got a room full of 20 different projects and every student it going to need to be doing their own thing. You learn you have to be able to pace yourself and get things done by a deadline.
B: You go to other schools, from my understanding you go to public schools and you don’t get a lot of the same experience as we do here. The teachers are more creative in how they teach topics to us. They force us to use those skills, like you were saying, for example to communicate in order to get to the end of the project. That should be a bigger theme in schools rather than sitting by yourself and working on packets, or working through a book. We don't do that here.
Do you think every student at this school is getting this kind of education you would want them to get?
H: No. Not at all. They’re not motivated, they don’t care, they have a "whatever happens, happens" mindset.
G: We have two different types of people here. We have the type whose parents forced them to come here. And then there's the kids like us, whose parents would be fine with us going wherever and we chose here because this is where we feel like we would get the best education. They aren't talking to their teachers or taking advantage of the extra classes after school or when you can do a lab. I would say that mostly in the high school there are more people who want to be here for sure.
B: I think that the reason they don’t care is because they value other things more than education: social activities, sports, or things that they don’t think they’ll need after they graduate. They're just here because they have to be here, which is an interesting concept.
H: It’s hard for me to picture that, because I love coming to school.
Whose responsibility is it for those kids to get the education that you would like them to?
G: I would say theirs.
B: My answer would be more on the side of teachers. I know that it is our own individual responsibility to take care of our own education, but teachers also play a big role. If I hadn’t been accepted to this school, I would have been at West High, the public high school. The teachers there are not nearly as good as the ones here. It would have been a lot harder for me to achieve some of these goals that I have without the support of my teachers. I’m relying on them to teach me--the whole point of being a teacher is to give me an education, I think. That's why they should be here. There are teachers out there that don’t really love their job and so they don’t do the best that I think they should. I really think that teachers need to be more creative in how they teach and always doing more research to see what other teachers are doing, and to motivate their students. Always talking to their students how important education is and how undervalued it is in our country. A lot of the responsibility should be put on our teacher I think, while there also has to be something within the student or taught to them to inspire them.
In school or out of school, what is a particularly empowering learning experience you've had? Tell me about it and what made it empowering.
B: I think the most empowering thing that I've done was being a part of a program called Real Food Rising. The program runs a farm, but they hire high school-aged people as staff. You work on the farm and learn about work ethic and being respectful at your job. They teach you about public speaking and how you need to be loud. We would lead volunteer groups and teach them the things we learned. It was really empowering because the internship at the end-- I was teaching the skills I have learned to other people, because I had become so much more confident through the program. To stand up straight and speak out when I have something to say. Being able to learn those skills helps me learn what I want to say and when I want to say it, and helping me be more confident in it. I was able to make mistakes in that program and not be criticized for it.
G: For me, I would say probably science fair. Mostly people hear science fair think volcano, your standard science project, but its not like that here. I started participating since 3rd grade and I haven’t stopped. One year, I went with one of the teachers here up to the U and we walked into this lab and I gave my spiel about what I wanted to study and I asked him, "Will you please mentor me?" And now, I've been working on that same project since 9th grade and plan on going through until I'm a senior. I’m still at that lab and got offered a job there last year. The whole process of learning something, like persistence-- being so close to making a strong conclusion and then having one piece of data screwing everything. That has taught me everything about work ethic and persistence and the actually education of chemistry and biology.
H: Same. I started this science project last year and have spent so many hours in the lab and boy, I was persistent. I kept thinking I should just stop now, but I stuck with it and it was incredible. I remember sitting in tears because I was so proud that I had done it, and it felt so good. It was worth it. It was the coolest high school experience that I’ve had so more, and I get to continue it on.
B: It’s empowering to let you be inspired by my peers. I’ve watched them do science fair, especially when I was at the awards ceremony, and I was really proud to be around you and have you has my friends. Seeing you so happy winning those awards, I was inspired to tell myself that I could do it too and you’ll have a support system around you.
What is one piece of advice you would give to adults or teachers to working with high school students?
G: To adults in general, don’t treat teenagers like their stupid. We are becoming adults and they treat it's like an overnight thing when you turn 18, but it's not. It's a transition. We are in that transition where we went from being children where we rely on our parents 24/7, into adults where we rely on ourselves. But, by treating teenagers like they're stupid or they don’t know what they're talking about - sure in some instances we don't, but in an environment where we push college and growing up and encourage getting a job or good grades so much, we grow up a lot faster than adults think you do. This is our reality. We’re not as young and dumb as you think.
H: We know a lot more than they think we do.
B: If I were to give advice to all parents, I would probably say always support your kids. Don’t get so hung up on things. If you really want your kid to be a doctor and they really don’t want to be, then that’s their decision Don’t ruin that relationship with your kid, because that can be a big impact on their life and how they choose to be motivated. Our parents really do have an influence on our life, and parents can choose if they want that to be a positive or a negative thing.
H: Can I say something to students? I think that one of the biggest problems that students do in general is that they go to class to get the grades, but not to learn, which I wish wasn’t like that. But it is. I just see it so much and it breaks my heart to see that. So that is all I have to say--go to class to learn and not get the grades.
B: I think that's because our society really values the grades you get and use those to say how intelligent you are.
H: I'm not going to lie, I’m a straight A student, but in a way I kind of wish I would get an A- or B, but I’ve just told myself don’t do it. Get all A's. I kind of want it to happen so that I can relax and not put so much stress on myself and not have so much weight on my shoulders.
B: I hate it. I got an A- in freshman physics, and every time I prin that transcipt, I see it I can’t get over it. I'll never have a 4.0 GPA, and that just trfrustrates me so much and it shouldn't.
G: I'm not going to like, I kind of disagree with that. I agree with learning as the number one priority when you go to class, but right up there with that should be those grades. Not everyone is going to have the motivation, like "I want to be knowledgeable," and I would be upset if I got a lower grade because I work really hard for it. That keeps me on track when I’m up at 12/12:30 doing my homework. And I think I could just go to bed and take an A- or a B. But it's like, “no, finish it get it done”.
H: I agree. I would cry if I got an A- or a B, but we put ourselves through so much. It would such, but I just think that you would feel not as stressed a little bit. It’s not like you lose your motivation. That’s not what I’m saying.
What do you think it gets you to get the perfect grades?
G: College admission. Satisfaction.
H: Knowing that you worked really hard to get it.
B: What I think about grades is that people work really, really hard to get that A, and sometimes they don't get it. And then outside parties see that grade and think you didn’t try hard enough or you aren’t smart enough. In reality, that person tried really tried to get that grade. There are times when grades don’t reflect intelligence or work ethic. I was talking about ACT scores and how important those are, we just did a practice test yesterday and I was doing the reading portion and it takes me longer to read. So the score that I get on that test it shows that I can't read super fast, but it doesn’t mean I can’t read or understand text.
The Salt Lake City Center for Science Education (SLCSE) is a unique lab school serving a diverse 6-12th grade student population in Salt Lake City. From their website: "At SLCSE, we develop the character and skills necessary to "Change Reality." We are courageous and persistent problem-solvers. We take healthy risks. We make mistakes and learn from our mistakes. We care about the quality of our work. We use professional language and kindness to develop learning communities. We take care of our abundant resources and use them to serve our school community and beyond. We use our curiosity, imagination and adaptability to direct ourselves in our quest; as learners, critical thinkers and ethical world citizens." You can find out more at http://slcse.weebly.com/ .