Hickman Mills micro-school provides solutions for students readjusting after virtual school years

Key Components

  • Half-time teacher
  • Classes offered every other day
  • 3 sections offered in January 2022, max 45 students
  • Practical Art Credit
  • Feeder course for Pathways

This year Hickman Mills launched their C.O.R.E (Creating Opportunities for Ruskin Eagles) microschool to provide more Real World Learning opportunities for their students and address student needs after more than a year of virtual school.

They decided to start C.O.R.E. sooner than initially planned because district leadership saw it as a strategy for re-engaging students who had gotten used to a different way of “going” to school.

“We saw an immediate need to create an ‘unschool’ experience for students who couldn’t quite see themselves back in the traditional high school setting for a seven-hour day,” said Katie Roe, executive director of secondary schools for Hickman Mills School District.

“We also had a large number of students who thought they wanted to stay virtual, but we knew that they needed more structure to be successful.”

Hickman Mills has also had to make some revisions to their original plan; one of those changes was the number of students involved in the program.

While they had room for 50 students, due to reduced recruiting time, the microschool started the semester with 16. Instead of being disappointed in the lower numbers, they are using the opportunity to take a closer look at student feedback and data to inform their next steps.

“We’ve had students who thought C.O.R.E. was for them, but the flexible and autonomous style of learning has proven to be challenging for them,” Roe said. “We started with 16 students and now have 11.”

Initially, C.O.R.E was intended to be a full-day program, but the district adjusted the length as well as teacher assignments to make the program more effective.

“We kept hearing from (students) that after being at home for a year and a half, they weren’t ready to be out of the high school for a full day; they still wanted some of that traditional high school experience with their friends,” Roe said. “We created a half-day program solely focused on the client-connected projects.”

Just four days before the start of the school year, the program lost the full-time teacher, who the district had hired to work with students at the microschool. “We went back to the drawing board and worked to identify a teacher who had a little wiggle room in their master schedule and could potentially take on an initiative of this magnitude,” Roe said.

Even with all the changes and challenges, Roe has been amazed by the increased student engagement, opportunities, and benefits that they hope to build on in the future.

“During their first mini-project, they connected with a wide range of individuals that we identified as someone who could give perspective to their projects,” Roe said. “Now that we’re onto our second project cycle, the students are coming to us with ideas of who they want to reach out to and schedule meetings with to get more information.”

Key component to C.O.R.E. – Client-Connected Projects

Students complete 1 project every 6-8 weeks. Students and coaches use the Design Thinking Process to tackle a real-world question. Throughout the project timeframe, student groups will explore the problem at hand, identify professionals who are knowledgable in the subject area, analyze their research, present their final project findings/solution, and reflect on feedback provided to them.