Seedlings is an innovative approach to staff development that has drawn favorable reactions even before its launch as part of Magdeburg Adventures. The basic operating principle of the program is the following: teachers can enhance their instructional effectiveness and pupils can improve their intellectual abilities when teachers and pupils jointly engage in academic development. It is a simple proposition but one that finds rare employment in current academic practice. In this program, pupils become seedlings, learners who have established roots for further achievement. Teachers subsequently make use of these more experienced pupils in various ways in their classrooms. Examples include using the seedlings as sources of factual information on a specific topic, as models of effective class discussion, or as experienced writers of academic prose. The teachers benefit from having an additional reliable resource for their instruction, a resource that resonates personally with the other members of the class. Pupils benefit from seeing that the tasks before them are not insurmountable, since their seedlings classmates have already accomplished similar work. And seedlings benefit from the satisfaction both of having learned a particular topic well enough to be considered a budding expert in the field and of serving as valuable supports to their friends and classmates. All in all, Seedlings is a program that holds tremendous promise for its participants.
The organization of the program is fairly straightforward. A teacher selects four pupils who will be enrolled in his or her class—a class that has a clear connection to one of the courses offered in the Seedlings program—the following academic year. The four pupils and the teacher enroll in Magdeburg Adventures, the pupils in the regular Magdeburg Adventures program, the teacher in Seedlings. All five participate in the course itself, completing the readings and assignments, engaging in discussion, and so on, although primary attention will be devoted to the pupils in the class. In addition, the teachers attend several professional-development workshops that focus on pedagogical issues pertinent to the subject at hand. The participants travel together on the excursions, acquiring an additional set of experiences that complement their understanding of the subject. After returning home and starting school the following fall, these teachers now have a small cohort of pupils whom they know well and who can serve as multifaceted resources for instruction in their own classes.
Classes designated as part of the Seedlings program are taught at an advanced level. While none is specifically tailored to the Advanced Placement program, the International Baccalaureate program, or other independent curricular offerings, the topics, insights, and abilities developed in Seedlings classes are consonant with the objectives of those programs. The only aspect missing would be the particulars of testing and scoring that are peculiar to each program.
Preparations are underway for the next Seedlings session. Details will be posted here as they become available. If you would like to be notified via e-mail when the site has been updated, send a note to us at info [at] MagdeburgPrep [dot] org.