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Gestalt Community Schools

Scholars

A Day in the Life

Gestalt scholars develop into leaders by learning to be innovative thinkers, problem solvers and humanitarians. We focus on the fundamentals of reading and math, but not to the detriment of real-life learning like economic literacy, persuasive reasoning, and scientific exploration. Students drill, but they also think critically and express themselves.

A Day in a Gestalt High School

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The school doors open at 6:00 am. Scholars who arrive at 6:15 am do so for one-on-one appointments with their instructors, to collaborate with their project teams, or to engage in small group study sessions. This is not your normal high school. Scholars at Gestalt learn to self-reflect and monitor their academic progress. They take ownership of their learning. So coming to school an hour before the start time is not out the ordinary. It is a choice for Gestalt scholars. The choice comes from their desire for continuous improvement. 


Scholars move onto morning seminar, which sets the tone for the day. They engage in morning rituals such as motivational chants, the academic question of the day, and character education. As they transition to their classes, scholars login to their computers to post their responses to the character education scenario. Today’s question integrates workforce etiquette and character education; scholars respond to the following: You are new on the job. During your training you were taught company policies. Now your supervisor gives you instructions that contradict those company policies. What would/should you do? Scholars respond to morning seminar assignments via blogs. 



Gestalt scholars move out to their workforce teams. They travel with their teams throughout each core subject area. The team names align to local businesses in Memphis and beyond. Team FedEx’s schedule has the scholars starting with World History. In history they study the functions of international government organizations such as NATO, United Nations, European Union and OPEC. Today, scholars are in a mock NATO session discussing what should NATO’s response be to the crisis in Libya. Prior to the mock session, scholars apply their knowledge of government, current events, and independent research to develop a formal response to the crisis. During the mock session, they debate from the prospective of their assigned countries.

Team FedEx moves on to English I, where they read short stories from international authors such as Tolstoy and Achebe. Scholars work independently to develop a literary analysis comparing the works of two international authors. Some scholars develop iMovies or podcasts while some select the traditional route of essays. At Gestalt, scholars engage in integrated, technology-based projects threaded throughout the core subject areas. 



As they begin business class, the scholars login to a webinar on international business and economics with a college instructor. Scholars take notes on their laptops and engage in group discussion. Team FedEx scholars exit their team to begin their individualized journey in Foreign Language, Music, Fine Arts, Physical Fitness and Wellness. Some scholars move into the Power Center Performing Arts building to participate in band, art, or drama classes while others will take health and nutrition classes.

After the Gestalt school day ends, many scholars remain in the building as late as 6:30 pm for clubs, tutoring, or just to access technology. At Gestalt, scholars work hard to get smart! 


A Day in a Gestalt Middle School

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“Go to cell A11. Is everybody there? Ok, let’s get ready to move the formula over so we can figure out the average number for each month here. Click and drag the formula to the new cells. Yes. Who needs help? Ok, are we ready to figure out your grade averages for all your exams? We can also do the average amount of rain per month in the rain forest this way... And we also know how to do the payroll formulas on Excel too. Ok, let’s graph those grade averages. Which kind of graph will you use? Let’s add a title to the chart; let me show you how...”

How many of us learned to use Excel formulas in 6th grade? How many of us are still learning how to do this? At Gestalt, this is a typical lesson. Another typical lesson would be a formal debate between students on the influence of advertisement in the media on children: pro, con, rebuttal. The power to learn new information, think about varying viewpoints, make a persuasive case and effectively communicate it, these are all expectations at Gestalt. Debate is infused into lessons for all grades. At Gestalt, you have to know enough to form an opinion, and then you must be prepared to convince others. And the scholar must argue the point without being disagreeable. 

So, how can Gestalt achieve this level of critical thinking and deep content with its scholars? Gestalt maintains several critical elements of its academic design consistent across grade levels and across different communities, including: 

  • High expectations for achievement
  • College preparatory focus
  • Meaningful community service
  • Project-based learning
  • Data-driven accountability
  • High technology usage

The root of the Gestalt academic design is to utilize the full day to present challenging content in core subjects, while also providing enrichment subjects. Gestalt teaches English Language Arts and mathematics for full mastery, but also makes the time for subjects such as logic, the media, and business ethics. At Gestalt, observers will not find long instructional scheduling blocks focused on a few topics; instead, classes are scheduled to use all instructional time in the day and move through content in a variety of classes. This keeps scholars motivated and enables them to apply their learning immediately. With this schedule, there is no “slack time” in the Gestalt day.


Gestalt’s project-based learning is infused with technology, as scholars demonstrate higher order thinking skills. An example of a project might be a basic trigonometry lesson tied to the project of developing rockets to launch as a real life application. Another example may be a pre-algebra lesson tied to a project that allows scholars to show their mastery of Excel formulas. Technology is not a subject at Gestalt, it's an essential tool woven into every subjects.