Students begin their SDL projects!

Building a surfboard. Learning how to cook guava panetelas. Mastering the guitar. Practicing meditation. Creating a comic book. Developing a business plan.

What would your SDL project be?

In most schools, students are asked to complete projects. Traditional school projects that tend to be related to specific class topics or learning objectives. Once in a while, students are allowed to choose the subject of their projects, but the format must likely adhere to specific instructions.

At espacio a, students of all ages complete a totally different type of school project called SDL, a semester-long, self-directed learning endeavor.

The main difference between traditional school projects and the SDL is that students choose the project’s topic, style, format, and goal. A student may choose to learn a new language just as easily as decide to learn how to oil paint.

Why, could you ask, does espacio a want students to determine the design and topic of the project?

espacio a wants to support students to become lifelong learners, continuously working on personal and professional projects for the “Joie de vie.” Developing students’ proactivity and growth mindset means providing them with the space, time, and tools to discover their intrinsic motivation and harness their curiosity.

Alas, the mighty SDL!

While students work on these projects individually, unless purposely designed as group projects, they share an SDL period with other students to form cohorts. Mentor teachers in SDL cohorts facilitate reflection, organization, and research workshops while answering questions and providing feedback.

SDL projects begin with a series of reflection exercises that assist students in deepening their self-awareness and identify their life goals.

What values do I prioritize?

What scares or worries me most about the future?

What would I change in my community or school?

In 10 years from now. Where am I? What does my life look like?

What are my superpowers?

The questions above are only a handful of questions students are asked to think through in their reflection stage of the SDL project. The answers to these questions and the time spent introspecting help them decide what type of project would really spark their interest and support their life goals.

Once students have narrowed down their ideas and chosen their project's topic, the planning and organizing phase begins. SMART goals guide this stage. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Students at espacio a become master planners! It might take them a couple of semesters to get there, but hey, when did you ace something on your first try ;) espacio a wants students to learn at their own pace, avoiding the stress of learning specific skills in arbitrary timeframes.

To successfully finish SDL projects, students inevitably conduct research. Lots of research! Research is not thought of as a stage because research is done in all phases, during reflection, planning, and execution. Research is a fundamental skill students master before graduating espacio a because it is a skill they will need to be successful in life. The 21st-century demands we are in constant growth and evolution, and for this, we must know how to research and learn what we don’t know.

The final stage of the SDL project is execution. It’s an awe-inspiring time in espacio a. Suddenly, abstract ideas and plans begin to manifest into concrete achievements. Students speak Italian in the halls, model the clothing they have designed and sewn, showcase their new karate skills...

It’s pure magic. And the best part, for us, is knowing that their achievements are their own and their curiosities spearheaded them.

We are excited to discover what students achieve this semester! We’ll circle back with you through another blog post at the end of the semester to share the students’ SDL results.  

As a bonus, to keep you excited, here are some of the topics students have chosen for their projects this semester:

How music affects the brain 🎶
Sports Business Management ⚾️
French Bread 🥖
How to maintain a garden 🪴
Creating a story comic 🖌
Filming a documentary about espacio a 🎥
Virtual Reality 👓

If you have any questions about the SDL project or would simply like to know more, please feel free to contact us.

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