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Teachers build Mosaic to empower students

CASTLE ROCK – When you look at a mosaic, up close, it can be hard to see a pattern. It isn’t until you look at the artwork as a whole that you get a true appreciation of how all of the little pieces of stone or glass come together. The same might be said of the Mosaic Collective, a new learning model launched at Castle View High School, which aims at empowering students to lead their learning.

To an outsider, Mosaic classrooms can seem a little chaotic. In one area you may find students quietly, but intently working, while only a few feet a group of students spontaneously gather together to discuss a particularly difficult concept. In another room a class assembles, but it is students at the whiteboard guiding the discussion, rather than the teacher.

Castle View Teachers and Mosaic Collective co-founders Michael Schneider and Ryan McClintock say in this program, teachers do not lecture, there is no assigned homework and students are largely able to come-and-go as they please, because the students are in charge of their learning.

“Mosaic was designed to individual instruction in a purely interdisciplinary way, to give students a little more freedom, choosing what it is they study and how it is they show mastery,” said Schneider said.

“We purposefully removed barriers like bell schedules and just about anything that kind of boxes our students and their thinking in,” added McClintock.

Mosaic teachers work with students to build real life skills, like time management and self-direction, so that they are able to guide the learning, with out the traditional daily prompting of a teacher. 

“You get a freshman who gets on his calendar, sends you an invite and tells you what room to be in and what time and what they need from you-- you talk about changing the complete paradigm of what education is. No longer does is it have to be one adult telling 30 kids what to do and when to do it and how to do it, but instead students telling their teachers where to be, when to be there, and what I need from you while we are together. That's our ultimate goal,” Schneider said.
Castle View Sophomore Kirstyn Halliday says Mosaic requires some self-motivation.

“It’s a little less-structured. A lot of it is up to you. The teachers, don’t assign you homework, you have to give yourself your own homework, like what do you need to do on this day. The teachers do check in with you to make sure you are on the right track and help you, if you do need anything,” Halliday explained. 

Teachers offer opportunities for students to meet to learn about important concepts, but largely students are able to work through projects, of their own choosing, at a speed that fits their learning style.

“You get to go at your own pace, which is better, in my opinion than regular schooling, when you’re just sitting there and the class might be a little slow and you just feel like you’re wasting your time,” Halliday said.

Without daily lectures, teachers have an ability to really personalize learning, ensuring each student’s needs are being met. Schneider and McClintock believe that every student would benefit from this empowering form of education.
“Some don't necessarily take well to being one student in a classroom of 30 with one teacher who is the center of attention. Others who are looking for a little bit of extra attention and one-on-one environment and there are others that are just begging us to get out of their way, and simply let them go and see what they can do, instead of waiting for, oftentimes, the common denominator to reach a level that they've already met.  They just want to go explore and do and then come to us for some guidance when they get stuck and to give them feedback while in the room,” Schneider said.

“They get to be themselves,” McClintock added. “They get to ask the questions they really want to investigate.”

The idea behind the Mosaic Collective percolated over coffee at the local Lost Coffee shop. Castle View teachers with a shared desire for what education could be, began to develop plans for the program.
“It has all been teacher created, from the beginning; from day one,” Schneider said. “Make no mistake, the most critical component of the Mosaic teachers was that this was not mandated top-down. This wasn't a principal or a district administrator saying this is what we're going to do," said Schneider.

Castle View Principal Dr. Jim Calhoun and Douglas County School District Superintendent Dr. Liz Fagen simply provided guidance, empowering teachers to create a learning model that meets their student’s needs.

“It's almost the environment we're putting our kids into [in the Mosaic Collective], which is design something and then come and see us to make sure it is appropriate,” Schneider explained. “In the case of public education, does it fit the modus operandi or the philosophy of the Douglas County School District, Castle View High School and follows state law?” 
“It's turning over some control to your teachers and empowering them. And trust, it's all rooted in trust and being treated like a professional. I've never felt more appreciated as a teacher,” Schneider added.
In many other Douglas County Schools, teachers are leading the way in implementing learning models that fit their students needs, including concepts like Artful Learning and Project Based Learning. Schneider’s encourages other teachers to speak up and be involved in the reinvention of American education.

“If you want something? Ask.  I'm not saying it will all be granted, but none of this happens if we don't ask,” Scneider said.

Innovation isn’t a new concept at Castle View High School. In fact, the program was based off the founding principles originally set by Dr. Lisle Gates and his staff nearly ten years ago.

“Castle View High School opened up with a desire to empower their kids, to choose their academy. It was the first start to choose their learning environment. Mosaic is just the next level of the choice that we opened the building with. It is the promise of true empowerment. To us, it's the next logical step in that notion of moving from choice to true empowerment,” Schneider said.  “Our job as teachers is to not put them into a box, but to craft the box that works best for the student.”

In its inaugural year, the program is only serving freshman and sophomore students, but the plan is to expand and offer it to all Castle View students. Halliday says she most certainly plans to continue in the program through her senior year.

“I love it. I’m excited every day. It’s so awesome,” said Halliday.

Learn more about the Mosaic Program at

October 29, 2014 | By rmbarber | Category: High School Education

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