Quest is a new program that will begin next year with 24 seniors enrolled. We caught up with the Quest team to learn more about this unique initiative.
Q&A with the Quest team: Darlene Poluan, Simon Bright, Katie Walthall
The Eye: What is a day of a Quest student like?
It’s hard to say exactly what a day of a Quest student will be like, because it’s very flexible and personalized to every student. Each student’s schedule will be customized to fit their extracurricular schedule, but all of them will have to meet at the same time for Quest Community and Group Work.
During Quest Community, students will be either attending guest speaker presentations or meeting with corporate partners. There will also be times for required and optional workshops.
Group Work sessions will be for students to meet with their groups to work on projects. Most projects will be done in small groups put together by the teachers, but sometimes it’ll be up to students.
Individual Time is for students to work on their senior project or to take an AP class online.
The Eye: What about students with extracurricular activities?
Students will still be able to take part in all SAS’s extracurricular activities with the rest of the student body. Students in performing arts (strings, choir, band, dance, drama) will still be able to attend their respective classes during normal school hours.
The Eye: What is the Quest curriculum?
The Quest curriculum is composed of six credits all students must complete upon graduation.
– AT Research & Composition (English)
– AT Data Analytics (Math)
– AT Design Thinking (Science)
– Cultural Awareness and Collaboration (Social Studies)
– Critical Thinking & Reasoning
– Creativity & Innovation
Throughout the year, students will be learning through unit-based projects that are interdisciplinary and personalized to their interests instead of in a traditional classroom setting with tests and quizzes. For example, in Data Analytics, students won’t be looking at histograms to learn how to make one simply based on the scenarios given on a worksheet, but instead will be learning how to apply it into their own research for their project.
There are two components to the projects. There are unit-based projects, then there are senior projects. Senior projects are student driven – they get to choose what they want to do. All students will have to describe a problem and identify a solution. Unit based projects are designed by the teachers, and we’ve designed the projects so that they will help students with their senior project. The projects will provide opportunities to explore new areas of interest or gain skills and knowledge to help with the student’s research. At the end, students will have to produce a thesis paper, talk, and defense for their senior project.
The Eye: If there are not tests and quizzes, how are the students assessed?
Using the Common Core (Writing), Ed-Leader 21 (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity), D-School (Design Thinking) and AP Research rubrics that are used at SAS, we will be assessing how students developed the skills they’ve learned and how they have applied these lessons in the real world.
All three teachers will collaborate to grade each student’s portfolio, reflections, and unit based projects to see their growth and effort.
The special thing about Quest is that it is a shared learning environment. We hope that not only we are developing the grades, but the students are developing the grades as well – that they know what they don’t know and they know the strategies to get better or push themselves further.
The Eye: Who are the teachers?
The three teachers are Darlene Poluan, Simon Bright, and Katie Walthall.
We actually see ourselves less as teachers who stand up in front of the class to tell students what’s important, but more as facilitators of learning. As advisors, we’ll be there not just to let you learn a subject, but about yourself, about life.
To create a culture where students and teachers can learn from each other, we’ll be going by our first names. We hope that by doing so, we can build mutual respect and a feel of community that’ll allow students to see us not just teachers, but mentors, advisors, and facilitators.
The Eye: How will Quest affect college admissions?
Quest students will apply to college just like any other senior at SAS. They will receive guidance from their counselors throughout the year and create an application just like everyone else. We understand that Quest is unique to SAS, and colleges won’t recognize the Quest program. Thus, we have designed the curriculum in a way that is transferrable onto an application. For example, on the transcript, they will have “Cultural Awareness & Collaboration” as a social studies credit.
The Eye: What if kids want to take AP credits?
With Quest, you are not going to be able to take five AP classes, because Quest already provides six credits, three of which are AT credits, and one additional independent learning credit. Time won’t allow students to take numerous APs. However, if a student plans to take just one AP, he or she may do that for his or her Independent Learning credit. There will be courses online they can take to prepare for the exam and teachers will always be there to help out.
The Eye: What was your biggest inspiration?
On our R&D (Research & Development) trip we saw students that were pursuing learning at levels we don’t always see at SAS. I was like, “Wow, students are capable of doing that if we just get out the way. Half the time, learning is about letting them go,” said Simon Bright.