Story-centered Curricula

I was introduced to Roger Schank through his book Engines for Education and still find his Student Bill of Rights an excellent reference point from which to discuss educational reform. In a recent article published in The Pulse, Schank talks about the implementation of story-centered curricula:

These are story-centered curricula. Students work in teams in virtual apprenticeships with experts producing deliverables that get increasingly complex throughout the year. No classes. No tests. One curriculum per year — complete four of them and you graduate. Ideally there would be hundreds of curricula to choose from but we have to start somewhere so I chose those four.

When I talk to people who might be interested in radical education reform I always ask what curricula their communities might need so we can think about how to produce those as well. The idea that every high school should be more or less the same offering of the same potpourri of algebra, American history, and Charles Dickens is just absurd, so I ask what they need in their world.

These types of curricula could be implemented in any community. For instance, here on the Tantramar Marshes, we have more biologists per capita than most communities. We could easily develop a four year program based on environmental stewardship. We have resources at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, the Canadian Wildlife Service, Mount Allison University and various other small businesses and non-profit organisations. Other communities have their own strengths and should be able to use them for their children.

Schank has suggested these four, one-year each, learning experiences as a pilot project:

  1. Scientific Reasoning
  2. Health Sciences
  3. New Technology
  4. Engineering (aerospace focus)

He also gives this example for a Native-American community:

  1. scientific reasoning
  2. alternative energy issues
  3. land management and forestry
  4. casino management or entrepreneurship or tribal governance

I would suggest this as a starter for our community:

  1. scientific reasoning
  2. life on the marshes
  3. green energy
  4. natural enterprises

Roger Schank is presenting us with a viable alternative to the subject-based industrial school model that was designed 100 years ago.

3 Responses to “Story-centered Curricula”

  1. Jane Boyd


    I have been dropping by your blog for a while now, though this is my first comment to you. I found you via Robert Paterson’s blog. I really enjoyed this posting – you will see my own thoughts on it as related to Montessori education on my own recently established blog. I am involved in a project to set up a Montessori School on PEI, though I am based in BC. I also really enjoyed your Small Schools, Loosely Joined posting back in September. Thanks.


    Jane Boyd


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