Nova (1974–…): Season 43, Episode 15 - School of the Future - full transcript

Once the envy of the world, American schools are now in trouble. Can the science of learning- including new insights from neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators-reveal how kids' brains work and tell us which techniques are ...

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♪♪♪

WOMAN:
How do you want
to wear it today?

NARRATOR:
Children.

"Meets new friends."

NARRATOR:
Our most valuable resource.

TEACHER:
Clap your hands!

NARRATOR:
In a rapidly changing world,

how are we preparing them
for the future?

WOMAN:
Our kids are going to have
to work with knowledge

that hasn't been discovered yet

on technologies that
haven't been invented yet.



NARRATOR:
How can schools today

help students of all backgrounds
meet the challenges of tomorrow?

Inequality in the United States
is our Achilles' heel.

MAN:
We want a world where regardless
of where you are born,

you have got an equal shot.

NARRATOR:
Can science help us find a way

to give all children
an equal shot?

WOMAN:
What do you think?

You look like
an astronaut, maybe?

WOMAN:
We shouldn't be asking kids
to beat the odds.

We should be using science
to change the odds.

Cortex...

NARRATOR:
Today's researchers are peering
into the brain,

trying to unlock the secrets
of how children learn.



WOMAN:
Reading is not a skill that
the brain is wired to do.

What does that say?

"Autumn"?

Yes.

WOMAN:
We're trying to get to the point

where I can say that
this is the magic

that will really help enhance
school performance.

So we might rethink
the word "reflection."

NARRATOR:
Can their discoveries help
educators transform our schools?

TEACHER:
I want to smell it,
I want to taste it,

I want to know how it looks.

MAN:
It is possible

to change
the brains of children

in ways that can level
the playing field.

TEACHER:
How many people saw the growth?

MAN:
Individual children
who think differently,

who learn differently,
or are on different paths

can now get the thing
that works best for them.

That's why!

NARRATOR:
The stakes could not be higher.

MAN:
Public education K-12
is not a terminal degree.

It's the beginning
of the rest of your life.

Ready, set...

Go!

Look at that!

NARRATOR:
"School of the Future,"
right now on NOVA.

When freshman Omar Gaytan
proskateboards to school,...N:

he's careful
to take the same route

and wear the right colors.

OMAR:
In the streets, the main thing
you got to worry about:

violence, gangs.

It's not as violent
as it used to be,

but, like, there's still
a gang presence.

If they do something to you,
you're expected to retaliate.

NARRATOR:
Across the freeway, Cole McFaul,

a senior at one of California's
top-ranked high schools,

raises a different kind
of worry.

COLE:
I think some people
at our school

do feel a need to succeed,

and they push themselves
really hard.

There's, like,
this mentality that,

"Oh my gosh,
I need to do well.

I need to work super hard."

NARRATOR:
This is Silicon Valley.

The home of Apple, Google,
and Facebook,

it is also home to two
very different communities

separated only by a freeway.

(dog barking)

LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND:
In these two cities,

Palo Alto
and East Palo Alto,

life is entirely different.

The resources for children are
entirely different,

the opportunities are
entirely different,

the schools are
entirely different,

DENISE HERRMANN:
We have students
who really want to succeed,

and if success means learning
in a certain path,

they're going to really be
ultra-focused on that.

AMIKA GUILLAUME:
We have a lot of students
who are helping to pay the rent,

not just adding a little bit
here and there,

but literally paying the rent.

DARLING-HAMMOND:
All over the country,
you can find these contrasts.

Inequality in the United States
is our Achilles' heel.

NARRATOR:
Each year across the country,
millions of children participate

in a public education system
built on a promise:

that all students deserve
an equal opportunity to learn

regardless of zip code.

But for many students,
a long history of inequity

has left that promise
unfulfilled.

NEWS ANNOUNCERS:
The United States is nowhere
near the top of the list.

Students from Asia to Europe
outperform Americans on tests.

NARRATOR:
Every five years,

students from around the world

take a unique test
that consistently shows

Americans ranking
well below their peers

from other industrialized
nations.

But that is not whole story.

DARLING-HAMMOND:
In fact, part of the American
public education system

is doing pretty well.

We actually rank first
in the world in reading

in schools that serve fewer than
ten percent of kids in poverty.

NEWS ANNOUNCER:
America has a child poverty rate

nearly double that of countries
like Canada and Germany,

who outperform
the United States.

CLAUDE STEELE:
High-performing nations
on PISA scores

have very tiny percentages
of their kids in poverty.

We just have a much steeper
slope in this society to climb.

RUSSLYN ALI:
If you're designing a system
that ensures that poor kids

and kids of color
are going to get less

of everything that we know
matters the most

in public education, then....

then you have
a civil rights quagmire.

NARRATOR:
In spite of increased attention
on education,

in some states, nearly one third
of low-income students

never finish high school.

ALI:
Let's be clear--

the achievement gap is caused
by the opportunity gap.

It hobbles far too many
of our young people.

NARRATOR:
While the opportunity gap
in America is deep-seated,

can our schools do a better job
in closing the achievement gap?

How can they best serve
all students?

Can the science of learning

help more children
reach their potential?

WOMAN:
Kids need to feel engaged

to really make optimal use of
your educational opportunities,

and the neural data
are giving us new insights

into the mechanics
of that process.

NARRATOR:
Can new technologies provide
more individualized instruction?

BHARAT MEDIRATTA:
A child's education
should be centered

around the way that
that child can receive

the best education
to help them grow.

CHILDREN:
I pledge allegiance
to the flag...

NARRATOR:
How can we transform

our one-size-fits-all
education model

to prepare students
for an unpredictable future?

TODD ROSE:
For the first time
in our history,

we have an economy for which

the only thing that's certain
is uncertainty and change.

And so what we have to prepare
people for is adaptability.

Oh, so that's why!

NARRATOR:
Teachers, students, parents,
and scientists

all across the country
take center stage...

Everyone has a growth mindset.

NARRATOR:
...as they explore innovative
approaches to education

and a new vision
for the school of the future.

Wait, there's
coordinates!

There's actually
coordinates!

I know!

Yay, I can see now!

NARRATOR:
What does a child need
to become a successful student?

Most experts agree that

developing certain skills
early on is essential.

PAM CANTOR:
There are a set of skills
that all children need

to be learners.

They need to be able
to pay attention,

to concentrate, to focus
for long periods of time.

NARRATOR:
But some conditions, including
growing up in poverty,

can hinder the development
of these skills.

CANTOR:
Within low-income households
comes risks around learning,

and we have
a huge number of children

who are being exposed
to stresses

that actually cause them
to come into kindergarten

not ready for learning.

There are gaps that will persist
over time.

NARRATOR:
At the University of Oregon's
Brain Development Lab,

neuroscientist Eric Pakulak
and his team

are looking for ways to help
children overcome these gaps.

To do this, they study
how our brains learn

to pay attention and focus
from an early age.

PAKULAK:
When you're paying attention,

your brain is essentially
turning up the volume

on what I'm saying

and also suppressing
the distracting information

that's going on around you.

What's your name?

PAKULAK:
That's a very powerful skill
for young children.

It's part of self-regulation,
which involves your ability

to use your brain
to control your body,

to focus attention, to suppress
distracting information.

I need this one!

NARRATOR:
They studied
preschool-age students

and found that
the ability to focus

can closely align
with socioeconomic status.

PAKULAK:
If you're growing up
in an environment

that's very chaotic,
that's not very predictable,

that in some cases could even
potentially be dangerous,

it's actually to your benefit
in that environment

to not suppress
distracting information

to the same degree
as other children.

Were you making
a joke, Cleo?

PAKULAK:
And so what is potentially

a large benefit
in that environment

could then not be such a benefit

when the child is moving
into a school environment

where those abilities
are very important.

What's gong on there?

NARRATOR:
To better understand
how a child's experience

outside of the classroom
can impact school readiness,

they began their research
in the home.

WOMAN:
Morning, Celi!

You got your clothes
all picked out for school today?

NARRATOR:
In Eugene, Oregon,

Crystal Rulli begins her day
like most parents:

by getting her children
off to school.

CRYSTAL:
When you're all done,
we can go get ready.

I got a shirt
and some pants.

All I need is socks and shoes.
Perfect.

NARRATOR:
But she has the added challenge

of being a single mom
to three kids,

two of them
under the age of eight.

CRYSTAL:
Let's get your hair
taken care of.

The youngest,
five-year-old Araceli,

is getting ready for school
at the local Head Start,

a federally funded
education program

that serves low-income families.

How do you want
to wear it today?

Should we put it
in a ponytail or a braid?

Two ponytails.

Two ponytails?

NARRATOR:
This mother-daughter exchange
may seem unremarkable,

but Crystal is practicing
parenting techniques

meant to reduce stress

and heighten focus
in day-to-day interactions.

There you go, all done.

You're good to go.

You did a lot of these
on your chart today.

Can you tell me
which ones you did?

Those two?

What's this one?

Wake up.

We woke up, huh?

Do you want a sticker
for that one?

You do?

Do you want me to pick it,
or do you want to pick it?

NARRATOR:
She gives Araceli
concrete choices

and rewards her
for making decisions.

What a good job!

All right!

Go see teacher Stephanie!

Teacher Stephanie!

Yeah, tell her
about your morning.

NARRATOR:
Crystal and Araceli
are part of a study

at the University of Oregon,

where researchers are working
with Head Start of Lane County

on techniques that help children
learn to focus.

What they do at home
is amplified

by what takes place
in the classroom.

The goal is to see
if this program leads

to better learning outcomes
for preschoolers.

TEACHER:
If you're not listening
to the directions,

can we play our games?

CHILDREN:
No.

'Cause you won't know
what to do!

PAKULAK:
Children at this age
are starting

to focus their attention
for longer periods of time.

All right,
Dr. Distraction!

PAKULAK:
And they're starting
to develop the ability

to ignore the distracting
information.

These are sort of
foundational skills

that can be of great benefit
to the child

going into the school
environment,

and then some evidence
even suggests

longer-lasting effects
into adulthood.

NARRATOR:
In one activity
called "Dr. Distraction"

students must walk
along a ribbon

while carrying an object
on a spoon.

TEACHER:
You'll be the best
Dr. Distraction there is!

NARRATOR:
Without being distracted

by the commotion
that surrounds them.

TEACHER:
Over the red stick,
and done!

PAKULAK:
This is a really important
period in brain development

for very young children.

Targeting these vulnerable
brain systems

at this particular point
in development

might essentially
help strengthen

the architecture of the brain

and provide
an important platform

for these children
moving forward.

Nice job, Araceli!

I'll take your frog.

You give that brain a kiss.

NARRATOR:
Some of these children
make regular visits

to the Brain Development Lab
at the University of Oregon

so the team can measure
any impact

of the focus training.

WOMAN:
All right, here we go
into the Brain Room!

Now we're going
to put your hat on.

NARRATOR:
Five-year-old Sawyer
is being fitted with an EEG cap

that measures the electrical
activity in his brain.

WOMAN:
Okay, we're going
to strap you in.

What do you think, you look
like an astronaut, maybe?

Maybe a deep-sea diver?

Astronaut!

Astronaut,
that's a good one.

NARRATOR:
An electroencephalogram,
or EEG,

picks up wave patterns
generated by brain cells

communicating with one another
through electrical impulses.

Occurring within milliseconds
of a stimulus,

these impulses make EEG
a fairly reliable way

for scientists to gauge
a person's response

to a particular event.

All right,
let's get on our throne!

Here we go!

NARRATOR:
Sawyer is going to listen
to some stories

to test his ability
to focus his attention.

Okay, you ready to watch
some stories?

Okay, here we go.

All right, here we go, kiddo.

MAN (on recording):
Harry was a white dog
with black spots.

On his birthday...

NARRATOR:
Sawyer is told to focus
on a story about a dog

called "No Roses for Harry"

playing from a speaker
on his left side

while pictures from the book

are shown on the screen
in front of him.

MAN (on recording):
He thought it was the silliest
sweater he'd ever seen.

The next day, when Harry went
downtown with the children

wearing his new sweater...

NARRATOR:
Soon, another story called
"I Love You, Blue Kangaroo"

begins playing from a speaker
on his right side.

WOMAN (on recording):
Blue Kangaroo belonged to Lily.

He was her very own kangaroo.

NARRATOR:
Sawyer is told
to ignore the second story

and only focus on the first--
the one about the dog.

(stories overlapping)

So the mastoids
look good.

Very nice.

NARRATOR:
Soon, intermittent noises begin
playing from both speakers.

(beeping and stories overlap)

These sounds trigger
an immediate response

in Sawyer's brain
and help Pakulak identify

which story Sawyer
is more focused on.

PAKULAK:
Things happen very fast
in the brain.

We can look at whether
there's a larger brain response

to something that you're
paying attention to

compared to the brain response

to something that you're not
paying attention to.

(beeping and stories overlap)

NARRATOR:
The stakes here are high.

Eric Pakulak is trying
to figure out

if the interventions
might make a difference.

PAKULAK:
This is a powerful technique

for studying the brains
of young children

because we're able
to actually look at outcomes

in terms of brain function.

With our new techniques,

we're really able to document
the vulnerability of the brain

to the pernicious effects
of early adversity.

MAN:
Okay, if you turn to page 14...

Maybe some of you had a chance
this week to try this out?

NARRATOR:
While the preschoolers
are tested in the lab

and instructed in the classroom
during the day,

their parents head to the school
at night.

PAKULAK:
The other parallel line
of research that we did

was looking at how
working closely with parents

might improve these outcomes
for children.

NARRATOR:
This is where Crystal comes

to learn strategies
to reduce stress at home

and encourage her kids to pay
attention to what she is saying.

PAKULAK:
There's a long history
of evidence

about the effects
of positive parenting

and getting parents
more involved.

MAN:
They're now ready for more
thinking opportunities.

Okay, so would anyone
like to share

any experiences that they had
trying it out?

Yeah, sure.

Go ahead.

CRYSTAL:
I have two younger children.

They're just... they're really
into the whole idea of it

and getting rewarded
with little stickers.

So they're doing it
on their own with...

They're kind of competing
a little bit

and they're just coming to me
as they do it,

and then they're like,
"Okay, I brushed my teeth,"

you know,
"Can I get my sticker?"

So it's kind of
flipped the script.

Instead of you
chasing them around,

they're chasing you around

and they're paying
attention to you.

It's not, "Wah, wah, wah."

It's moving away from that
and actually giving them

a reason to tune in
to your words.

PAKULAK:
We were able to document

reductions in parenting stress
in these parents.

They were reporting
better social skills

and fewer problem behaviors
in their children.

They're going to be
paying attention...

NARRATOR:
But does reducing stress at home

combined with activities
in the classroom

really improve a child's ability
to focus?

PAKULAK:
What we were able to show
is that children

who were randomly assigned
to receive this intervention

that involved working
more closely with parents

as well as the child
attention training

that we do see that these
brain systems for attention

improve in children
from backgrounds of poverty.

WOMAN:
Teacher Sally is here!

NARRATOR:
This is not the only evidence

that points to the value
of early intervention

and the role of parents
in a child's education.

RUSSLYN ALI:
Education is the thing that
touches every single one of us

not once, but twice in our life.

We go to school
and we send our kids to school.

We want the best
because we know

if we give our kids
the best education,

that is the foundation
they need to succeed

in whatever life choices
they choose.

NARRATOR:
Many experts believe
that parents are critical

to helping children
learn better.

ALEJANDRO GAC-ARTIGAS:
I don't think that we'll be able
to close the achievement gap

without learning how
to effectively engage parents.

Home is where children spend 75%
of their waking hours,

and yet our system does
shockingly little

to try to capture
any educational value

from this time.

NARRATOR:
With the help of parents,

Alejandro Gac-Artigas
is looking to nurture

a critical skill
for young learners: reading.

GAC-ARTIGAS:
When I became a first-grade
teacher in Philadelphia,

I was bowled over
by the fact that

it took my kids
till the end of November

for their reading levels
to finally catch up

to where they had been
before the summer.

And when I talked
to other teachers

about what was going on,

they all shared in this really
matter-of-fact way,

"That's just the summer slide,"

as if it were some law of nature
that growing up poor,

for every two steps forward
you take during the year,

you're going to take a step back
during the summer.

NARRATOR:
Studies point to a troubling
trend among low income students:

their reading skills
can erode dramatically

during the summer months--

a major contributor
to the achievement gap.

GAC-ARTIGAS:
I began to realize that
summer learning loss

is a symptom of an underlying,
deeper problem,

which is that parents
have largely been left out

of the process
of educating their kids.

MAN:
Okay, so we want
to have your child

read with you
and alone, right?

We want to read together
and alone.

We need both of those things
to improve the reading levels.

NARRATOR:
One study found that this slide
can become a gap

that has fifth graders reading
at a second-grade level.

So Gac-Artigas founded
Springboard Collaborative,

a program to help parents
foster better reading habits

in their children.

Students receive
daily reading instruction

for five weeks
during the summer.

Additionally,
their parents attend

weekly workshops with them

to learn techniques
for encouraging reading at home.

Everyone is doing
an amazing job of working hard,

and so this is just
another reminder about the goals

and how you can monitor
that progress.

GAC-ARTIGAS:
Both the teacher and the parent
share a goal for the child:

they both want to see the kid
become a successful reader.

And they have complementary
skill sets to make it happen.

The teacher is the expert
on instruction.

The parent is the expert
on their own child.

NARRATOR:
Ken McFarlane is the expert
on his son Marcus.

McFARLANE:
To send your child to school

and think that they're going
to magically become

who you want them to be
is questionable at best.

"Meet new friends..."

McFARLANE:
So I filled my home with books

and I thought that
I would produce a reader,

but that alone doesn't work.

You have to put in the work
to produce a reader.

NARRATOR:
Marcus attends a public school
in Philadelphia,

and while he's not
a struggling reader,

his kindergarten teacher felt

he wasn't living up
to his potential.

So she recommended
Springboard Collaborative.

McFARLANE:
They taught us
how to make reading

more interactive...

Sound it out.

...asking questions
prior to reading,

in the middle of reading,
after reading is finished,

and it basically encouraged us
to be more involved

and encourage him to take
responsibility for himself.

What does this say?

Autumn?

Yes.

I don't know
what that means.

It's the fall--
the seasons.

NARRATOR:
According to Springboard
Collaborative,

in just five weeks,

its students replaced a typical
three-month reading loss

with a more than
three-month reading gain.

GAC-ARTIGAS:
Those five weeks
are really intended

to build some habits that
a family can take and run with.

"The plow digs up the plants

and churns the potatoes
to the surface."

"They stop
on the spice trading..."

GAC-ARTIGAS:
I can think of no more natural
way to personalize instruction

than to do so
with a family member.

"Did you see
anything amazing?

"Weeds and rocks.

Same here!"

GAC-ARTIGAS:
That, for me,
is where the magic is then,

and I think it's every bit
as magical for low-income kids

as we know it to be
in higher-income places.

I like reading because...

When you read something,

they have different problems
than yours.

And when you look
at other people's problems,

it makes you forget your own.

You can imagine
about anything you want.

I wish I had more time for it,
but I do like reading.

NARRATOR:
If programs like Springboard

can bolster children's
literacy skills,

can reading interventions impact
a child's developing brain?

Neuroscientist
Joanna Christodoulou

is trying to find out.

CHRISTODOULOU:
First you're learning to read,

and then you're reading
to learn.

And so during the earliest
stages of education,

in early elementary school,
your job really is,

"Learn how to read
and learn how to do it well."

Reading is not a skill that
the brain is wired to do.

Children have
to orchestrate regions

designed to serve other purposes

and organize them
in service reading.

Come on in.

Let me show you
the real brain camera.

There it is,
right through that window.

NARRATOR:
Early reading deficits
in children

can lead to learning
difficulties later on.

So Christodoulou
is studying young readers

at the earliest possible stage

using magnetic resonance
imaging, or MRI.

Christodoulou focuses
on two parts of the brain

involved in language.

Known as Broca's
and Wernicke's areas,

they're named for the scientists
who discovered their functions.

CHRISTODOULOU:
Wernicke's we understand
to be very important

for language comprehension,

and Broca's area
is incredibly important

for language production.

And that's important
even before reading onset

because when you're learning
to read,

you're harnessing regions

that have been serving your
language capacities already.

NARRATOR:
Research suggests that
the development

of Broca's and Wernicke's

depends a lot
on a child's environment.

CHRISTODOULOU:
When we think about kids
who are at risk,

that could translate
to things like

how many books are in the home,

or how much language
does a child hear--

not from a television,
but from actual people.

NARRATOR:
Growing up in a less advantaged
household may,

for some children,

slow the development
of areas of the brain

critical to language
and reading.

CHRISTODOULOU:
We looked at the structural data

and we found a very notable
correlation

between Broca's area
and socioeconomic status.

On average, the lower
your socioeconomic status,

the smaller that region.

NARRATOR:
Christodoulou wants to see
if early reading interventions

can change
the physical structure

of these crucial regions
of the brain.

To do that,

she analyzed the test scores
and MRI data of children

who attended a six-week
summer reading program

like Springboard Collaborative.

That looks really nice.

NARRATOR:
She found that
after the intervention,

children from lower
socioeconomic backgrounds

showed marked improvement
across several reading skills.

But most striking was the change
in their brain structure.

CHRISTODOULOU:
Children from the lowest
socioeconomic backgrounds

made the greatest gains in
the region of Wernicke's area.

NARRATOR:
These preliminary results

suggest that
reading interventions

can positively impact
brain development.

CHRISTODOULOU:
You ready?

I'm going to show you
what it looks like

from one ear
all the way to the other ear.

The huge benefit
of being a child

is that your brain
is extraordinarily plastic.

It's amenable to change

in ways that are
very distinctive and unique.

What do you think?

(laughing)

NARRATOR:
The brain's ability
to respond to changes

in environment and behavior
is called neuroplasticity.

PAKULAK:
Neuroplasticity is
the changeability of the brain

with different kinds
of experience.

NARRATOR:
For educators, neuroplasticity
presents both risk and reward.

PAKULAK:
The metaphor that we use is

neuroplasticity is
a double-edged sword.

The same systems that are
vulnerable are also enhanceable.

(whistle blows)

NARRATOR:
One factor that makes the brain
vulnerable is chronic stress.

This can hamper development
in areas

where our abilities to learn and
to process emotions intersect.

CANTOR:
The limbic system
of the developing brain

is where the affective emotional
life of children is shaped

and where their learning brain
is shaped.

NARRATOR:
The limbic system
includes the hippocampus,

which is critical to memory,

and the amygdala, the brain's
emotional smoke detector.

When the brain
perceives a threat,

the amygdala initiates
a chain reaction.

That triggers the release
of the stress hormone cortisol.

With chronic stress,

the amygdala
becomes oversensitive

and floods the body
with cortisol,

putting it in a state
of high alert.

This can disrupt the delicate
chemical balance and structure

of the limbic system.

CANTOR:
That means the children who are
highly reactive to stress

are easily triggered
by other events in their lives.

TEACHER:
I'm going to give you
a countdown.

Ten... Jackie!

Being in an economically
disadvantaged neighborhood,

some children come in
with a lot of baggage.

NARRATOR:
Dana Kirton teaches fourth grade

at Fairmont Neighborhood School
in the Bronx,

where nearly half
of the children

are born into poverty,

the highest rate
in New York City.

KIRTON:
Whether it's family life

or a result of the neighborhood
that they live in,

children carry
more stress than usual.

A lot of times, they're already
in a defensive mode

because of what has happened
before the day started.

It could be, "I don't have
the money for a class trip,"

"I don't have
the school supplies I needed."

Some children come in hungry.

NARRATOR:
The disruptive nature
of adversity on one child

can derail learning
for an entire class of students.

If you have a child
that is off task

and refusing to cooperate,
it could be chaos.

It has the ability to become
a distraction unless addressed.

Be mindful of the time--
ten minutes.

The positive side of this story

is that there actually is
a prevention for this,

and the prevention is
the human buffer.

You keep reading,

and I like the fact that
you're using the pencil.

I want to really
commend you on that.

CANTOR:
When children feel safe,

when children are
feeling nurtured,

that adults are caring
about them,

there actually is
another pathway.

Is everybody with us?

CHILDREN:
Yes!

All right, there's a boat...

NARRATOR:
To buffer the stress

her students may be experiencing
outside of school,

Dana makes her classroom
a safe place.

She and her co-teacher
Kristin Robles

rely on techniques
aimed at creating

a positive
classroom environment.

Let's turn and talk
to our partner.

KIRTON:
60 seconds.

Go!

NARRATOR:
One tool is called
"turn-and-talk."

And then he ate
the chocolate.

Everything tastes
like chocolate.

John Midas follows slowly
with Susan.

He wanted some water,
but when he drank water...

KIRTON:
Children need to collaborate,

and they respond when they have
somebody to respond with.

John was carrying
a dark blue trumpet case, and...

What's his name?

We want everybody to feel
accepted and welcomed

for what they have to bring.

NARRATOR:
Another technique uses praise

in place of punishment.

Thank you to those who are
listening to our classmate.

Thank you.

We like to praise those
who are on task,

because the hope is that
everybody wants to be praised.

Thank you to those
who are quiet and waiting.

When they hear

"Thank you to those,"

everybody's like,
"Oh, I want to be a 'those!'"

And so everybody just
kind of falls in line.

Okay, thank you to those
who are standing in a circle.

We have to be careful
how we speak to children

because you can speak
life and death

into a child's school life
with words that you say.

ROBLES:
Say one word that reminds you

of being in fourth grade
in 409 this year.

Then we're going to say
the person

that we're tossing
the string to,

and we're going to hold on
to one end

and toss it
to that person.

Learning!

Okay, you gotta step up
so they can see you.

Step up a little bit more,
right there, that's good.

Robotics.

Hold the string
and throw it.

PAM CANTOR:
School readiness means
you walk in the door,

and what you see and feel is
a joyous, safe, engaged,

positive school community

where every single message
that children get

is that they are capable
of great things.

KIRTON:
People will say,
"You're a teacher?

Oh, God bless you."

And I say, "Yes, thank you,
but God bless my children,"

because my children are
putting in the hard work.

I'm just showing them.

My children are taking it
and they're running with it.

And so don't give up.

All right!

I have knotless memories.

All right!

VIVIAN GADSDEN:
This idea that there's
one pathway

is very small-minded,
narrow-minded.

There are these
multiple pathways.

Some of them are laden
with barriers,

and others are fairly seamless.

We have to figure out how
to make them more seamless

for all children.

It takes really being concerned
about the whole child.

NARRATOR:
Part of focusing
on the whole child

is understanding that even when
children are ready to learn,

they may not have the necessary
tools to learn effectively.

MARK McDANIEL:
We would never throw a child

into the deep end
of a swimming pool

and say, "Swim."

We wouldn't do that.

But in education,
that's exactly what we do.

We throw the kid
into the classroom

and we say, "Learn!"

NARRATOR:
Are there proven techniques
for teaching all kids

not just what to learn,
but how to learn better?

Good morning, everybody!

PATRICE BAIN:
I have some really
bright students...

Morning!

...who couldn't tell me

what we had done a month ago.

They could copy.

They could copy really well.

But if you asked
an essential question,

they wouldn't know
how to answer.

So our essential question
for this chapter is,

what transformations occurred...

NARRATOR:
Patrice Bain,
a history teacher in Illinois,

wants her students to remember
everything she teaches them,

so she asks them to think
about an essential question.

BAIN:
There we go!

NARRATOR:
And she tests them every day.

Names on top,
number one through five.

I just take whatever we did
the day before,

I put it in a basket,
I pull five things out.

It makes the students so
accountable for their learning.

They have to retrieve
this information.

What is the term
for a grand church?

Number two...

NARRATOR:
This is no high-stakes test
that students often dread.

This is a mini-quiz.

Bain will not record
their scores.

BAIN:
And number five,

what was the term
for the journey and battle

to take control of Jerusalem?

NARRATOR:
These quizzes prompt students

to fetch the information
from memory.

Known as active retrieval,
the process has been shown

to strengthen
long-term retention.

MARK McDANIEL:
We should be trying
to retrieve the information,

getting it out of memory

rather than trying to cram it
into memory.

It turns out that
retrieval practice

is extremely effective
for creating robust memories.

NARRATOR:
After decades of studying
teaching techniques,

cognitive psychologists
Roddy Roediger and Mark McDaniel

researched their
learning strategies

at Columbia Middle School.

McDANIEL:
We were interested
in whether or not

getting things out of memory--

that's what you do
when you take a test--

could actually be an effective
learning technique.

NARRATOR:
Patrice Bain's classroom was
one of their laboratories.

In their studies
at Columbia Middle School,

Roediger and McDaniel found
that integrating

daily, low-stakes quizzes
to promote active retrieval

improved outcomes for students.

BAIN:
How can we answer this question?

Raise your hand.

People got infected
with the bubonic plague.

The plague helped
to end feudalism.

BAIN:
Oh!

McDANIEL:
The results clearly showed
over and over again

that material
that was quizzed

was remembered better
on the exams in class.

Are we making any connections?

McDANIEL:
In fact, students were improving
about a grade level,

coming up
from a B-type performance

to A-type performance

on material
that had been quizzed.

BAIN:
Let's see...

Garen,
what is feudalism?

A rule of governing
the, um...

(laughs nervously)

ROEDIGER:
One problem we've had

is people trying
to make learning easy.

They don't want
the kids to fail.

They want the kids to succeed.

But you also want the child
to learn accurately

and to pick up
the correct information.

Somebody help me!

BAIN:
There we go!

It's okay to ask for help.

That's the way we learn.

And to do that,
challenge is good.

BAIN:
Hands on this one.

What did the Normans do?

Liam?

NARRATOR:
Low- or no-cost strategies
that work,

even when learning gets hard,

have proven especially useful
in communities

like Upper Darby, Pennsylvania,
just outside Philadelphia.

Budget cuts here
meant big changes

for the district's
public schools.

DAN McGARRY:
Programs were starting to be cut

from the public schools
in this area,

and people started to move away.

When you're taking
those resources away

from kids who need it,
it then makes its way

into student achievement issues
for a school district,

and that led
to all these problems.

(children chatting)

How are we doing today--
you all right?

Guys, how are we doing today?

NARRATOR:
Among the hardest hit
in the Upper Darby district

was Beverly Hills Middle School.

In 2011, it was struggling
to meet

the state's many standardized
testing requirements

and was labeled
a failing school.

Principal Kelley Simone
rules the hallways here.

Watch out, buddy!

You okay?

We're trying to meet the needs
of all kids with less.

We had to do something.

NARRATOR:
Over 60 languages of origin
are spoken here,

and most students qualify
for a free or reduced lunch.

We couldn't just say,
"Oh, well, pack it up and go."

We still have to teach children
and educate children every day.

McGARRY:
Where there's poverty

and there's heartache
and there's hardships,

unfortunately, there are kids
who come into school

that are needy.

I wanted to figure out,
how can we improve

some of the climate
and culture things

that we're dealing with?

NARRATOR:
The district took a gamble

and called a former
schoolteacher.

Now a psychologist at
the University of Pennsylvania,

Angela Duckworth
is trying to figure out

what makes people stick with it
through the hard times.

DUCKWORTH:
When I was a teacher,
many of my students

were not doing as well
as I wanted them to do.

And for me,

the gap between what I thought
they could intellectually handle

and what they were
actually doing

is what drove me to study
the psychology of effort.

And I'm going to
really try 100%.

What is the psychology
of staying with things

and not giving up on them,
as so many of my students did?

NARRATOR:
So Duckworth studied a number
of success-driven groups,

including West Point cadets,
CEOs, and college students.

Her measure is a test in which
people rate their likelihood

for not giving up
when times get tough.

She calls this trait "grit."

Subjects noted how strongly
they identified with statements

such as
"new projects and ideas

sometimes distract me
from previous ones,"

or "setbacks discourage me."

She found that
even more than IQ,

grit was a strong predictor
of success.

DUCKWORTH:
Some people might think,

"Well, IQ is genetic,
but character is learned,"

but really,
both IQ and character

are both genetic and learned.

So that's the kind
of messy answer

to the nature-nurture question.

NARRATOR:
With Duckworth's help,

the district established
its character education program.

Gritty!

When I say deep practice,
you say...

Gritty!

NARRATOR:
In addition
to the standard curriculum,

teachers now carve out time
for grit.

DUCKWORTH:
It is really not easy
to take an insight from research

and just, you know, make it real
in the classroom.

NARRATOR:
Goal setting and perseverance

lie at the heart
of these lessons.

When you get knocked down,
you get up,

and next time, guess what?

You do it even better.

NARRATOR:
In one exercise,

students in Mary Byrnes'
sixth grade language arts class

are challenged
to write a few lines

about a unique food they enjoy.

Ready, set, go.
Quick share-out, guys.

"My favorite food
is spicy Indian food.

"I love the smell and taste
of the exotic spices.

I can't choose just one dish."

Great.

Great try.

NARRATOR:
Then, they must rewrite those
sentences and make them better.

Now I want to smell it,
I want to taste it,

I want to know how it looks.

Ready, set...

Choose challenge, guys.

DUCKWORTH:
To get better in any skill
is to challenge yourself

to do what you
couldn't do before,

to concentrate,
to get feedback,

and then to do it
all over again.

100% all the way, super job.

DUCKWORTH:
I think for all students,
the place where they learn

is the place that's just
a little harder,

just a little more advanced
than what they can do today.

I'm going to ask you
to wrap up that last sentence,

turn to your partner.

Turn, hurry up.

"My favorite delicacy is hot,
spicy Indian food.

"I love eating
the delicious curry

"folded with soft,
fluffy white rice.

"I especially love
the exotic smell and flavor

of the spice blends."

Awesome!

How many people
like their work better

after you went back in there
and improved it?

How many people
saw the growth?

Although it took
more time,

how many people say
it was worth it?

So you want
to remember that:

how you felt
after you met the challenge,

after you set your mind
to giving it your absolute best.

NARRATOR:
Grit is not a solution
for all struggling students,

especially those faced with
challenges beyond their control,

but it can encourage
some children to keep at it.

DUCKWORTH:
I think grit is

this intuition that things
are going to be hard

and you're going to want to give
up because you are frustrated,

because you are disappointed,
because you are discouraged,

but in that moment, you're going
to stick to it and not give up,

and you're going to keep doing
that over a long period.

NARRATOR:
Since introducing grit
into classroom instruction,

teachers and administrators
at Beverly Hills Middle School

have seen firsthand how attitude
impacts academic performance.

McGARRY:
Public education, K-to-12,
is not a terminal degree.

It's the beginning
of the rest of your life.

It's about kids setting a goal

for what they want to achieve
and who they want to be in life.

That will increase
student achievement.

And I believe that's not
a huge cost financially;

it's a cost of time.

Grit is to me, like, the ability
to work through things

even though they may, like,
put stress on you.

Having determination, basically.

Blood, sweat, and tears
through no matter what.

Well, when I'm faced
with a challenge,

I kind of power through it.

If I get afraid
of doing new things,

I just take a deep breath

and tell myself that
I can do it.

You're never finished.

You can always keep going.

There's only a deadline--

you can keep going
to make it better.

NARRATOR:
Teaching skills that nurture
positive personal qualities

is having a resurgence.

But as an educational practice,
it's nothing new.

DUCKWORTH:
It was Martin Luther King
many decades ago

who said that the goal
of a true education

is intelligence plus character.

So it's not just
in the last few years

that we're having this epiphany.

CAROL DWECK:
It was the 1960s, 1970s.

We were coming out of an era
of behaviorism

when you could only talk
about behavior.

You could not talk
about what was in the head

or what someone felt.

That was considered
unscientific.

We were putting that behind us,

and we were rushing
into the head

with great eagerness.

It was an era now called
the Cognitive Revolution

that said, "We can never
understand human behavior

without studying human thought
and human emotion."

Good afternoon.

Good afternoon!

NARRATOR:
Carol Dweck is a psychologist
whose early research formed

one of character education's
more popular theories:

growth mindset.

DWECK:
What I found was

that children think in different
ways about their intelligence.

Some believe
it's just this fixed trait:

"I have a certain amount
and that's it."

But we saw that other kids
believed

that their basic talents and
abilities could be cultivated.

They took on challenges.

They applied the effort.

That's a growth mindset.

We've shown repeatedly that
teaching kids the growth mindset

really helps their achievement
over time.

SAL KHAN:
We want a world where

regardless of where
you are born,

you have got an equal shot
as anyone else.

NARRATOR:
Helping children by convincing
them that they can learn

is a strategy that education
entrepreneur Sal Khan

has also adopted.

In order for someone
to really reach their potential,

they have to believe
in themselves.

I saw that firsthand with Nadia.

NARRATOR:
Nadia is Khan's cousin,
who at 12 years old

lacked confidence
in her learning abilities.

KHAN:
Nadia was having trouble
in math.

Because of that,

they were putting her
into a slower math class.

I was like,
"Look, if you're up for it,

"let's get on the phone
every day,

and I want to work with you,"
and she agreed.

Let's get started.

NARRATOR:
Ultimately, Khan designed
math tutorials for his cousin

that he shared with her
on YouTube.

KHAN:
If I've traveled 0.5 kilometers,

how many centimeters
have I traveled?

Question mark centimeters.

Soon, not only did Nadia
improve in math,

but her attitude or mindset
changed as well.

KHAN:
So one of a bigger unit is equal
to a bunch of the smaller unit.

The same young Nadia
at 12 years old

who thought that she did not
have the capability

to understand unit conversion

two years later
was taking calculus

at the local university.

That was Exhibit A for me of,
"Wow, a lot of this is mindset,

and a lot of this is
your perception of yourself."

NARRATOR:
Inspired by his niece,

Khan established
a not-for-profit,

online tutorial service.

KHAN:
Let's say I start
with an old classic:

one plus one.

9x minus 4y...

NARRATOR:
Over a decade old,
Khan Academy has

more than 38 million registered
users worldwide.

Lessons range from math
to organic chemistry

and world history.

KHAN:
Those microtubules
are going to start pulling

on each of the sister
chromatids.

NARRATOR:
But now, they're experimenting
with something new.

Khan wants students to keep
trying when they're struggling.

WOMAN:
A growth mindset is where

you think of your brain
as something that can grow.

You can expand, stretch,
and build it up.

KHAN:
We've worked
with the research labs

to start putting mini
growth mindset interventions

in Khan Academy.

NARRATOR:
They've launched
an international competition

that teaches math

and encourages effort
in the process.

How many people do we have
signed up?

We have over 25,000.

Oh, really?

Idaho might be...

Idaho's killing it.

Yes.

NARRATOR:
The state of Idaho is
among the competitors.

We're now doing a whole
virtual and physical challenge

with communities that are
all about building mindset.

We call it Learn Storm.

WOMAN:
Are you ready for Learn Storm?

(cheering)

Learn!

Storm!

Learn!

Storm!

(cheering)

Let's have a huge
round of applause for Sal Khan!

(cheering)

KHAN:
All the people you admire

in sports, in media,
and business,

they've all failed more times
than you realize,

but what differentiated them

is that they got back up
and they kept going.

And so that's where Learn Storm
came from.

NARRATOR:
"Learn Storm" is a competition
built for someone like J.T.

(cow mooing)

NARRATOR:
More agile with video games
than he is with math,

the Idaho middle schooler
is often discouraged

when he gets an answer wrong.

KHAN:
There's such a stigma
with getting something wrong.

That's failure.

I mean, the word "failure"
literally feels like...

I mean, it feels bad.

Like, cortisol starts getting
put into your system

as soon as you even hear
the word "failure."

And "F," you know, I mean,

I have dreams
where I see an "F" still!

(mumbling through problem)

Draw a line below too
so you know that we're...

I will, but
I'm not done yet.

...keeping everything
organized.

Now erase that
and re-add it.

Wait, I'm lost with these.

KHAN:
When you're trying
to understand something

that's a little intimidating,
maybe a little complex,

it's stressful
to have someone else

waiting for you
to understand it.

"Hey, look, you see why y
is now equal to -8?"

(unsure):
"Yeah, I understand it."

So you missed
the whole answer

just because of how
you lined it all up.

Just erase your answer.

My head hurts.

KHAN:
You just feel pressure.

You don't want to waste
the other person's time,

you don't want them
to judge you.

(computer dings)

NARRATOR:
When his father leaves,

the Khan tutorial helps J.T.
work through a tough problem.

A hint appears on screen

telling him how to change
his strategy.

An additional prompt
encourages him to try again.

Oh, okay.

NARRATOR:
Once he's correctly answered
all the questions in the series,

J.T. moves on
to the next level of difficulty

and gets energy points
for his effort.

This point total goes
toward his overall performance

in the Learn Storm challenge.

KHAN:
Hopefully that starts
to deprogram some of this,

"Failure is bad, don't step out
of your comfort zone,

stick to what you know,"
fixed mindset thinking.

Now that's good.

Yep.

NARRATOR:
With Learn Storm,

students are not only rewarded
for getting it right,

but for trying,
an encouragement tool

that's part gaming strategy
and part cognitive science.

KHAN:
If I had one single hope,

it's that any participant
in Learn Storm,

their mindset towards learning
has changed.

Yep.

"I got a couple
of questions wrong

"and I went home
and I reviewed those questions

and now I got it right."

That's the type of impact
we hope to see,

and I think the cognitive
science and the tech

are only going to become
more and more symbiotic.

J.T.:
Oh, that one's pretty easy.

DWECK:
The intersection
of technology

and psychology
is a wonderful intersection.

(computer dings)

We want children to engage
joyfully in a learning process.

(computer dings)

Will they stick to it?

Will they find it enjoyable?

So we care
about these things too,

not just the final outcome.

(computer dings)

NARRATOR:
Designed more than
100 years ago,

our school system needed
to prepare a workforce

for a factory-based,
industrialized economy.

But that one-size-fits-all
approach to education

often doesn't work for students

of varying interests
and abilities.

How can a school system
built for mass education

be redesigned to meet the needs
of individual students?

After World War II,

the U.S. Air Force
faced a similar challenge

when it transitioned
to jet-powered aviation.

ANNOUNCER:
Jets must be handled differently

through the whole cycle
of operations.

TODD ROSE:
Planes are going faster,
they're more powerful,

all kinds of technology now,

and they're having
just a heck of a time

with pilot performance.

NARRATOR:
Test flights
of newly designed fighter jets

were crashing
at an alarming rate.

ROSE:
For generations,

the dominant military design
philosophy was

that if you had to create
one thing, your best bet was

to actually design
for an average-sized person.

NARRATOR:
When a young researcher
figured out

that there was no such thing
as an average-sized pilot,

he determined that the problem
was not pilot error,

but one of design.

So instead of trying to find
pilots to fit their planes,

the Air Force began building
planes to fit their pilots.

The simple solution?

Something commonly seen
in automobiles today:

adjustable seats and steering.

ROSE:
It's a recognition

that average-based
industrial systems have failed.

So when I think of the parallel
to education,

I think we will see
pretty big gains

just from shifting
toward individuals

and away from averages.

Do you really know
how to do this?

NARRATOR:
To create a more adjustable
school system

that adapts to the needs
of millions of children,

education entrepreneur
Max Ventilla

is relying
on digital technology.

MAX VENTILLA:
One of the key hallmarks
of a 21st century profession

is that you are using
digital technologies

to build on your own
capabilities.

We can all have the same Legos,

and we can create an infinite
number of different arrangements

that each satisfy
our own individual need.

For me, this phrase
"mass customization"

is the goal.

TEACHER:
Can you tell us more about that,
that superimposed layer?

That says "C-A-something-T."

So I think
we identify that...

NARRATOR:
Called "Alt-School,"

this experiment in customizable
learning environments

is taking place
in a small, private network

of one-room schoolhouses.

BHARAT MEDIRATTA:
It's not a lab in the form that
we're performing experiments.

It's a lab in the form
of us trying to understand

how to build the best-quality
education every single day

in that classroom.

NARRATOR:
Nearly everything here
is done on computers.

By working closely
with software engineers,

teachers can alter the programs
to suit the needs of each child.

How do you do that?

MEDIRATTA:
When you get a device now,
that device has a settings icon.

When you click
on that settings icon,

there's all kinds of things
that you can change

to customize it for yourself.

You know how you have
the bar graphs...

MEDIRATTA:
Now we can provide
customization at scale,

and that in
an education environment

means that individual children
who think differently,

who learn differently
or are on different paths,

can now get the thing
that works best for them

for the particular goal
they're trying to achieve.

TEACHER:
Ratios like fractions

are about relationships.

So in our scale model, as we
grow, as the actual height...

NARRATOR:
At this alt school in Palo Alto,
Courtney Reynolds is teaching

a math lesson about ratios to
a mixed-aged group of students.

So this is about 170 feet.

NARRATOR:
After the group lesson, students
will put their new knowledge

about ratios to work on building
scale models of a living space.

Or dive deeper into the subject

through personalized lesson
plans called "playlists."

Think of your playlist
as your textbook.

But instead of it being every
child gets the same textbook,

each child
gets their own textbook

that is composed
of different chapters.

Well, right now,
I have this playlist

about being mindful of my scale.

MEDIRATTA:
Maybe there's, like,
a chapter that's on math,

but there's five
different levels of math,

so maybe you get
level three math.

Maybe you get level five math.

And when I click
the "I'm Done" button,

I send it to my teacher,

so my teacher receives it.

NARRATOR:
With students
working independently,

Courtney has time
to see who needs help,

like student Juan Martin,
who is struggling to find

the right ratio
for his scale model.

MEDIRATTA:
Now you don't teach
these 35 students

all the same curriculum,
you teach these 35 students

the thing that helps them
with their core skills

and lines up
with their passions.

REYNOLDS:
Show me how we're
repeating these units.

MEDIRATTA:
In this model, the educator
moves a little bit away

from being a direct teacher

and more towards being
an education facilitator.

Why can't I do five times ten?

Hmm!

What's stopping you?

I'm not sure.

What does five
times ten mean?

NARRATOR:
When Juan Martin realizes
that one inch on his model

can represent five feet at full
scale, it all comes together.

Oh, so that's why.

Thanks.
I think we did it.

MEDIRATTA:
We're not trying
to reduce educator time.

We're trying to improve
the value of their time.

Nice job.

Budding architect.

NARRATOR:
While most schools cannot afford
this level of customization,

the hope is that as technology
becomes cheaper,

this model can be scaled up
and adapted for all children.

ROSE:
It's really important
to realize that technology

is not a solution; it is a tool,
just like my pencil is a tool.

So it's really about
how we choose to use

this new tool at our disposal.

But digital technologies
now give us the power

and the flexibility to create
customizable environments

at scale without spending
more money.

NARRATOR:
Even though digital technology

is a familiar presence in the
lives of today's students,

its long-term impact on their
learning is still unknown.

But one thing is certain:
the generation of students

entering high school today
is the first born into a world

where they can literally hold
a computer in their hands

from cradle to grave.

LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND:
Human beings are learning
organizations.

That's what we do,

from the first moment
we are on the earth.

NARRATOR:
Children's natural quest
to learn

meets new and unique challenges
as they move into high school.

MARY HELEN IMMORDINO-YANG:
As kids move into adolescence,

they're engaging
with their friendships,

they're engaging
with their community,

and they want to feel
like they're part of something.

NARRATOR:
The physical, emotional, and
social changes of adolescence

pose new challenges
and offer great opportunities.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
They're trying to figure out,
who am I.

Not just what do I do
and what can I do,

but what kind of person am I,

and how do my actions show that?

NARRATOR:
Many educators see this as an
important way to engage students

in learning by making it
more relevant to their lives.

NARRATOR:
That's the intention behind
East Palo Alto Academy,

a charter school
that opened its doors in 2001,

the same year
that Omar Gaytan was born.

OMAR GAYTAN:
Originally my family
is from Michoacan, Mexico.

What brought my dad over here
was, you know,

the search for money.

My dad never even finished
the fourth grade,

but he still wants me
to make it to college.

NARRATOR:
Since 1975,

this city has been without
a traditional public high school

and has struggled
with crime and violence.

AMIKA GUILLAUME:
One of our biggest
challenges is,

how do you get someone
college-ready if their parents

have never gone to high school?

TEACHER:
Whoo, morning, guys.

What's good, Omar?

What's good, Andy?

Thank you
for being on time.

NARRATOR:
Admission to East Palo
Alto Academy

is first come, first served.

With just over 300 students,
it's an attractive alternative

to the neighboring town's
high school

with a much larger student body.

GUILLAUME:
A school like ours
needs to exist,

because there are students
who get overwhelmed

by being one of 600
other freshmen.

When you have over 89%
of your students

qualify for free
and reduced lunch,

over 75% of your students
are learning English,

and over 50% of your students
qualify as homeless,

you inevitably have students
who are going to have challenges

when it comes to being ready
to learn.

What problems can arise
when we seek revenge?

NARRATOR:
Teachers here
take a different approach.

GUILLAUME:
We do very much culturally
responsive instruction,

so we don't use
your typical textbook.

We're going to take
from everything

and create a curriculum that
is engaging for our students.

NARRATOR:
Restorative justice class
is one example.

Here, students learn to write
and speak openly

about issues relevant
to their lives and community.

Omar, speak on it.

How do we see
cycles in gangs?

Say like a rival gang
shoots you.

Then your homies are going to
get like payback to avenge you.

So then it just keeps going
like back and forth.

So it's a never-ending
cycle, right?

NARRATOR:
They're graded on essays,
presentations,

and class participation.

And the question
in all of those cycles is:

who's going to have the guts
to break it?

MAKAILAH PERKINS:
Culturally responsive
instruction is a way

to say to a student,

"I recognize that you have these
assets, these academic assets,

these social assets
that I want to feed.

All right,
let's get to writing.

PERKINS:
Because this is what's going on
in our society right now,

and this is how it applies
to you.

Figure out what your place is.

GUILLAUME:
This concept is important
for a school like ours

because it's a way to show
that teaching and learning

happens everywhere, not just
in an academic setting,

but as human relations.

NARRATOR:
As a way to inspire

and keep students engaged
in the classroom,

they're encouraged
to pursue their passions

outside of school.

Impressed by Omar's
writing skills,

one of his teachers pushed him
to start a hip hop club.

Hip hop gives me a voice,

a way to, like,
express my thoughts freely.

What's up?
You guys ready?

So all these other channels,
we don't really need them.

Which are the ones--
these two?

Exactly.

Rap could be about anything.

I want to show you
the other one.

Okay.

(music playing)

GAYTAN:
Could be about living here.

It could be about the struggle,
coming from the ghetto.

Rap could be like my diary,
you know?

What word comes to your mind?

What message?

Motivation.

Motivation?

That's the message.

I think that's
a cool title.

NARRATOR:
As with any extracurricular
activity,

hip hop club can be both benefit
and distraction.

PERKINS:
Omar, can I check in
with you, please?

Thank you.

I wanted to talk a little
bit about your grades.

NARRATOR:
When his grades start to slip,
Omar's adviser Makailah Perkins

wants to know why,
and to make sure

that he understands
what's at stake.

So, you went from As and Bs
to what we have here.

You have an A in English,
an A in RJ, an A+ in imaging.

You have a what in biology?

A "D."

A "D."

How did you go from
an A+ to a D+ in bio?

PERKINS:
As an advisor, my role
is to listen first,

and then take what students
tell me and help them design

their own academic path.

And sometimes saying,
"No, no, no, I hear you,

but you think you can be here,
but I know you can be here."

Can you get into college
with a D in Bio?

No.

It has to be a C or more.

Mm-hmm, so what are you
going to do about that D?

Raise it up, try to.

NARRATOR:
Academic advisory here
is not a voluntary conference.

It's a required four-year class
with regular check-ins

to keep students on track
toward their education goals.

Is English
a challenging class?

Somewhat.

Somewhat.

So if you can get an A+
in a challenging class,

then that tells me
that what?

What could you get in bio?

An "A."

GAYTAN:
Them holding me up
to a high standard,

like, that makes me feel good.

That means that they, like,
believe I can do it.

So if they believe I can do it,

that means I could do it,
you know?

PERKINS:
Every second that
I'm with a kid,

I have the opportunity
to be a light in their life.

So it's a lot of encouragement,
it's a lot of advocacy,

it's a lot of cheerleading.

GUILLAUME:
65% of our students' parents
did not go to high school,

so you need to be
that pushy parent

who's going to help them
through this system.

They need to be given
this very powerful combination

of high expectations
with an incredible amount

of love, support, and
understanding to push them up.

Sometimes pull them up.

NARRATOR:
During the 1990s,

while East Palo Alto's
crime rate was soaring,

Silicon Valley was booming.

Across the freeway, Palo Alto's
median household income

rose to more than twice
the national average.

Students here can choose between
two elite public high schools.

CLAUDE STEELE:
Everybody is hyper-performing

and comes from really advantaged
backgrounds.

The kings of Silicon Valley
live there.

You get a very intense pressure.

TEACHER:
Here it seems like

her inner state is outcast,
but then nature is good.

So we might rethink
the word "reflection"

and it sounded like I heard
something about

mother and caring, and so maybe
nature as, like, solace.

A set of test scores and grades
that might make you a hero

in another school, you just
wonder if you can make it.

NARRATOR:
Cole McFaul goes
to Henry Gunn High School.

McFAUL:
I like to think of myself
as a good student.

So I do student government.

President
of the Chinese Culture Club.

I may not look like it,
but I'm a fourth Chinese.

I also do Model United Nations.

I'm also big into basketball.

And trying to manage all that

with the studying
leads to stress.

(teacher speaking Mandarin)

DENISE HERRMANN:
We have almost 2,000 students

and of the 2,000,

over 90% of them go on
to four-year colleges.

(bell rings)

So we have a very academically
focused community.

The physics concept
for third law...

McFAUL:
Maybe it's from your parents,
maybe it's from your friends,

maybe it's from, like,
your teachers pushing you.

You just work for late hours
into the night.

It's probably really unhealthy
for me.

NARRATOR:
Widely known
for student achievement,

Gunn High School was forced
to confront the dark side

of intense academic
expectations.

It's very important
to put social/emotional

and academic learning
on the table together

and work productively
at all of that at once.

When we ignore
how children feel,

how they are learning to be
in the world and interact,

we imperil them
in a number of ways.

McFAUL:
He was the guy
on the basketball team

that would just have a smile
on his face

and just be laughing
all the time.

Cam was his name.

He was one of my close friends.

I'd been Facebook-chatting him
the night before

at, like, 10:00.

I, like, walked into
my AP U.S. history class.

When I heard the news

and somebody said, like,
"Cam committed suicide."

And I was like, "What?

Like, that can't be right
at all."

I had never cried so hard.

I definitely went through
the denial phase

for, like, the next couple days.

I was, like, damn.

So, yeah.

HERRMANN:
One of our former students
died by suicide,

and two months later
one of our current students

died by suicide,
and a month and a half later

a third student
died by suicide.

And it was a pretty tumultuous
time on our campus.

NARRATOR:
Suicide is among the leading
causes of death for teens.

Since 2009, Gunn High School
has experienced eight,

more than half of them occurring
within one school year.

There definitely was a culture
of blame in the community.

The sense was that there was a
culture of academic competition.

And our high school
or the academic stress

may have been
one of the root causes.

McFAUL:
I think definitely
some people at our school

do feel sort of
a need to succeed,

and they push themselves
really hard.

I just looked at the situation.

I was, like,
"This shouldn't be happening.

Something has to change."

NARRATOR:
In response, Cole teamed up

with his friend and classmate
Chloe Sorensen

to launch
a wellness committee.

SORENSEN:
One of the things that Cole
and I were talking about

when we were creating
this position,

having someone to coordinate
all of these

different initiatives and these
efforts that we have on campus.

NARRATOR:
Alongside teachers,

health practitioners
and administrators,

they're working to change
the school culture

by reducing student stress
and improving emotional health.

COLE:
Gunn now offers
adolescent counseling service

and that's, like,
pretty much a psychologist

that you can go to
and talk about

whatever you need to talk about.

NARRATOR:
In addition to counseling
services for students,

among the many changes
at Gunn High School

was a new bell schedule.

HERRMANN:
We really tried to invest
in students having

a little downtime between their
focused learning experiences.

(bell rings)

So we went
with a block schedule.

Students have fewer classes
per day.

We extended lunch,
we extended the passing periods.

Pretty much every possible
decision that I make

about this school,
I make through the lens of,

"Is this going to contribute
to student well-being?"

NARRATOR:
One of the biggest changes
was getting rid

of an optional
early-morning class

that had some students arriving
at 7:20 a.m.

HERRMANN:
That decision

was in response
to a lot of pressure

from the professionals who know
about sleep and mental health.

Many of the pediatricians
who work with our students

understand that they aren't
getting enough sleep.

MARY CARSKADON:
There's just a litany of things

that go south if you haven't
had adequate sleep.

The most scary thing
is depression

and the start of these
mental health issues.

Kids who are sleeping less
have more suicidal ideation.

NARRATOR:
In adolescence, sleep can become
a matter of life and death.

Why?

And can anything be done
about it?

CARSKADON:
We have this system

where biology is pushing
this way,

the school district
is pushing this way,

and sleep is getting pushed out.

NARRATOR:
During adolescence,
hormones cause dramatic changes

in teenagers' sleep cycles.

Their body's internal clock,
or circadian rhythm, shifts,

causing them to fall asleep
later at night.

If they have to get up early
for school,

they're chronically
sleep-deprived.

One solution is to move school
start times later,

like Gunn High School did.

But for most school districts,
tinkering with bus schedules

and after-school activities
is a tricky proposition.

CARSKADON:
My concern has become,
what do we do

when school districts
can't change the start time?

Is there a way that we can
move that window for sleep?

NARRATOR:
At Brown University's Bradley
Sleep and Chronobiology Lab,

Mary Carskadon spends her waking
hours studying sleep.

Hi, guys, how's it going?

Great.

NARRATOR:
She and her team

are trying to manipulate
the circadian rhythm

of teens to better suit
the traditional school day.

They found the key lies
in harnessing a major driver

of the sleep-wake cycle...

...light.

All the light we see
is processed

by light-sensitive cells
in the retina.

Most help our vision,
but a few send messages

to our brain's biological clock.

Normally, when it gets dark,
this clock signals

the pineal gland
to release melatonin,

a hormone that tells the brain
that it's nighttime.

CARSKADON:
Some people call it

the "hormone of darkness"--

or even more fun,
the "vampire hormone."

Because the melatonin
is produced

in the biological night.

So when the melatonin rises,
it opens the gate for us

to go to sleep.

NARRATOR:
As morning approaches,
melatonin secretion subsides,

and we awaken.

Carskadon's first task
is to find out which wavelength,

or color of light,
has the greatest impact

on the release of melatonin.

Okay, I'm going to change

to the high-intensity
green light right now.

NARRATOR:
To do that, subjects sit in
front of various types of light,

well into the night.

Okay, room two looks
like they're almost done,

so we'll give them
their saliva sample.

NARRATOR:
Meanwhile researchers monitor
the melatonin level

in their saliva.

CARSKADON:
Our whole goal was to find
what's the best signal

that can crush the melatonin.

Turned out that the one
that seemed to work best

was the brightest
in the blue spectrum.

WOMAN:
So that's the light

that will suppress melatonin
the most during this protocol.

NARRATOR:
What they found is that
prolonged morning exposure

to intense blue-enhanced light
helped kids wake up

and be more alert.

This in turn could help shift
their circadian clock

so that they fall asleep earlier
at night.

The vision of this is that
we can go into schools

with a recommendation to build
in changeable lighting,

so they can have a prescription
that's not the same

all day long.

We're trying to get to the point
where I can say,

as a behavioral scientist,
that this is the magic

that will really help enhance
school performance.

(speaking Mandarin)

CARSKADON:
Learning should be a joy,

not a torture.

(laughter)

Waking up to my mom at 6:21
every morning to get ready

for zero period health.

As a senior that's not very fun.

What I like most
about school is...

You're constantly,
like, problem-solving.

I like using creative thinking,
and like logic.

But if you think,
"I'm curious about that,

I want to learn more
about that,"

and you go seek it out,
it sticks a lot better with you.

NARRATOR:
Both students and experts agree
that providing

a more rewarding
school experience can inspire

better learning,
particularly in high school.

But how to do that varies,

depending on the community
and the student.

In order to thrive in school,
academically,

before the skills are presented,
you need to have some sense

that you're valued
in that community,

and that people in that
community see a future for you.

STUDENT:
All right, ready?

Stretch to the right.

NARRATOR:
But feeling valued
can be a challenge,

especially for students born
outside of the United States.

(students counting aloud)

With our rising
immigrant population,

it is estimated
that by the year 2055,

no single racial or ethnic group
will make up a majority.

STEELE:
We all have these
social identities.

All of them have negative
stereotypes.

It imposes a huge
psychological burden on a person

to function
in an important situation

where they could be seen

in terms of one of these
negative stereotypes.

If you're a member of such
a group and you're in a school,

your progress is going to be
affected by that.

The 400 meter...
I believe starts here.

400, I got Rudy, I got Hector,
I got Murtada.

NARRATOR:
As a Muslim refugee
from war-torn Iraq,

Murtada Mahmood is often
the target of such stereotypes.

MAHMOOD:
When we walk, like,
my sisters wearing hijab,

some people will just stare at
us for I don't know what reason.

NARRATOR:
He and his family
fled to the United States

by way of Syria in 2013.

MAHMOOD:
I would see bombings
and shootings.

One day, I woke up, and we just
packed our stuff and left.

It was our country, but it
wasn't good to live there.

Do a quick yell?

One, two, three...!

NARRATOR:
They arrived in Lynn,

a U.N. refugee relocation site
in Massachusetts.

More than 15,000 people
from around the world

have been resettled in the state
since 2009.

With these newcomers,
the number of students

learning English in local
schools has grown steadily.

(speaking Arabic)

Hello, hello.

(family conversing)

NARRATOR:
Since the loss of their father,
Murtada and his sisters

help their mother
improve her language skills.

The treadmill?

(chuckles)

You should be speak with me
English in the home.

It's good?

It's like when we go outside,
we speak English.

So at home
we want to relax.

I want to learn.

Must be, must be.

(laughs)

NARRATOR:
When Murtada first arrived,
he attended a public school

where he was separated
in a class

for English language learners.

MAHMOOD:
When I first came,

I would speak, like,
broken English.

I would go to class and I was
the only Iraqi kid there.

The teachers,
they all spoke Spanish.

The teachers sometimes will
translate for them in Spanish,

and like I would just sit
in the corner.

NARRATOR:
For high school,
Murtada switched

to Kipp Academy Lynn Collegiate.

Instead of separating
English language learners,

this charter school includes
them in regular classes.

TEACHER:
This reading is
ridiculously challenging.

I threw up
some page numbers here.

If you want to go straight
to the sex scene,

I don't blame you.

RENE ALDERETE:
One of the biggest gaps
that might happen

is English language learners
may feel like they're separated

or they're not taken seriously.

NARRATOR:
As head of Kipp Lynn's English
as a Second Language program,

Rene Alderete supports students
like Murtada in their classes.

ALDERETE:
Making sure that the students
are included

in the general education
classroom eliminates for them

a feeling of isolation.

What are the power dynamics
here, and why?

MAHMOOD:
He married Antoinette
for her money,

so like I think she kind of
wants him to keep away from her.

It's an important detail.

NARRATOR:
By including English language
learners in regular classes,

Kipp impacts student self-image
and raises expectations as well.

ALDERETE:
The students are aware that,

"Oh, what is expected
of everyone

is expected of me, too."

What are the moments
that make up that experience,

and of those moments, which one
is a defining moment, okay?

ALDERETE:
The idea of college,
and my career,

and what am I doing
after high school,

that is something that
is expected of me, too.

NARRATOR:
Kipp students are expected
to go to college,

so Murtada is required to take
a special two-year prep course.

How are we doing, guys?

Do we feel like we
might have something?

NARRATOR:
Now a junior, he's practicing
how to tell his personal story

on college applications.

Learning a new language,

that did not just happen
in a day, right?

How long did that take you?

About a year.
A year.

And what happened
in that year?

What are the moments
that made up that year?

Put me in that moment
where you learn, or change,

or take action.

That make sense?
Yeah.

I was put in mainstream classes.

That helped me

because I could listen
to other people,

like, when they were talking
to me.

As the year went on,
my English level went up.

(indistinct chatter, laughter)

That made me work more on myself
because, like, I want to also...

like to talk, to have my voice.

All of the YouTubers that
I know, like they all...

ALDERETE:
High expectations will drive
students to make sure

they meet their college
and career goals,

but with the high expectations
also comes support

and the building of character.

MAN:
On your mark!

(gunshot)

(cheering and shouting)

My father, he always forgot
about what's bad.

He was thinking
about what's next.

And that's what I also
like to do.

I always forget the past
and just think how to improve

what's coming next.

(cheering)

STEELE:
What our schools need to do is
build a community in that school

that really conveys to every kid
in it a sense of belonging

and having a real central role
in the society.

The whole thing is open to them,
"it's really open to you,

and here's the route."

It's kind of a different feeling
than I think junior high

or elementary school was.

In high school everyone
was trying to get

to that next level, too.

When you have
a really nice teacher,

it becomes like
a family environment,

and that's what I tend to like.

You're kind of growing up,
and they're kind of treating you

more as a mature person.

This year's going to be fun
because I get to, like, hang out

with all my closest friends
I've been with,

like, all these four years,
and...

School is more than just...
work.

NARRATOR:
As adolescents seek their place
in the world,

their need to be part of a group
takes on greater significance.

Many educators wonder
if this teen yearning

can be leveraged
to engage learning.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
Adolescents in school
really need opportunities

to connect their skills
to who they are as a person.

And to do that,

they need to be in a place where
they feel like they belong.

Hey, welcome.

Thank you for coming.

I'm Mary Helen,
nice to meet you.

NARRATOR:
Since her days as a teacher,

University of Southern
California neuroscientist

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang
has been interested

in knowing how emotions
factor into learning.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
I quickly realized that there
was very, very little known

about the kind of stuff that we
really care about in education,

like how people become inspired.

How do we become interested
in things?

How do we build curiosity?

And how can we support
that process?

NARRATOR:
In trying to identify
which parts of the brain

are involved in the deepest
and most meaningful learning,

Immordino-Yang works with teens
from troubled neighborhoods.

We're going to be watching
stories.

We really want to know
what you think.

So there's no right
or wrong answers.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
These are kids who
see a lot of crime,

they see a lot
of dangerous things,

they see a lot of poverty,
and we wanted to understand

how do they make meaning
of that world around them?

This first one is a story
about a girl who lives

in Swat, Pakistan.

And the city was being taken
over and basically run

by a group called the Taliban.

So I want you to watch her
when she was 12 years old.

(gunshots and shouting)

NARRATOR:
First, she gets them
emotionally engaged in a topic

by showing them videos
about people struggling

to overcome adversity.

...and I want to become
a doctor.

(chuckles)

So how does her story
make you feel?

This story makes me feel upset
how she wants to be a doctor

and continue on
with her education,

but it makes her sad
that knowing her journey

would be very difficult.

NARRATOR:
For adolescents,
these types of stories

can trigger moments
of deep reflection.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
They come back from those
kind of reflective moments

with this heightened
appreciation

of the meaning of the story,
and what it applies to

in their own life,
and what it means

for the nature of the world
more broadly.

And it's crazy
how it's that powerful.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
Whereas we've known that
for a long time in education,

the neural data are giving us
new insights into the mechanics

of that process.

Come on over here.

NARRATOR:
To find out which brain regions
are harnessed

during reflective emotion,
Immordino-Yang monitors

the students' brain activity
as they re-watch

the emotional videos
in an fMRI scanner.

Hi, Estella,
how are you doing in there?

ESTELLA (on speaker):
Good.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
So we're looking at the movement

of the blood flow in her brain
as she's watching the stories

and where in her brain
is becoming more and less active

as she's experiencing
these emotions.

NARRATOR:
She found that
the reflective thinking

caused by these emotional videos
triggers widespread activity

throughout the brain.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
The most high-level brain states

that people experience
in the scanner

don't just activate
high-level systems.

They also activate lower-level
structures of the brain

that are involved in regulating
and monitoring

your consciousness
and your survival.

NARRATOR:
Immordino-Yang believes that the
reason why learning and emotion

seem so intimately connected
is because complex emotion

like admiration can activate
basic brain functions,

like those regulating breathing
and heart rate.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
We think that the reason
that humans' values

and belief systems and ideals
are such powerful motivators

is literally that
they're hooking themselves

into biomechanical machinery

that has evolved to keep us
alive over time.

So emotions are a critical piece
of learning, always.

Meaningful learning, learning
that really matters to you,

that changes who you are
and that endures over time,

always has an emotional
component.

So I would drawn upon
any of these.

NARRATOR:
Her research shows that engaging
students on an emotional level

makes for more powerful learning
experiences.

And she's not alone.

Some schools are trying
to design curriculum

that harnesses the power
of emotion,

especially in communities
where students face adversity.

KHANDACE MITCHELL:
When I was going
to my old school

it was a lot of chaos.

A lot of violence, gun crimes.

Seeing someone pull out a gun--
that's kind of traumatic.

If I see something like that,

it's like jeopardizing
my safety, my life.

It was hard to approach
the learning well.

NARRATOR:
Khandace Mitchell struggled
in middle school,

often overwhelmed
by the stressful conditions

in her Philadelphia
neighborhood.

KHANDACE:
Some girl had a problem with me.

I don't know why.

She brought a whole crowd
with her.

I tried to leave out the crowd,

but people kept pushing me
back in.

She hit me and then everything
is just a blur from there.

I don't like hurting people, but
the way she hit me, I had to.

And I got suspended.

SIMON HAUGER:
The narrative of "work hard,
get a good education,

you'll have access
to a great future"

doesn't ring true
in many urban situations.

A lot of students don't see
the importance of test grades

and the work feels meaningless.

TEACHER:
We have to put bolts
on the bumper.

NARRATOR:
To engage students
on an emotional level,

some schools are building
curriculum centered around

projects kids care about.

That's the principal idea
behind The Workshop School,

which serves kids

from some of Philadelphia's
toughest neighborhoods.

TEACHER:
What we're doing right now
is you are creating

a geometrically shaped box
in wood.

NARRATOR:
In this public school,
traditional subjects

like science and geometry

are taught through
hands-on projects.

The box may not be
a rectangle or square.

What if we did stars?

I tried to do a star, and
I'm like no, I'm not doing it.

So let's think about a star.

SHAUGER:
Often the tension

in project-based learning

is make sure that there's
rigorous learning.

What is your angle
going to be?

140?
Yeah, 140.

SHAUGER:
When project-based learning
is working well,

students are engaged
in solving real-world problems,

creating projects that have
some real tangible outcome.

That's a whole lot of sides
I got to calculate though.

So, the work mimics
more what we do in real life.

Tomorrow, you are presenting
on what happened in Flint.

NARRATOR:
In science class, Khandace
and her lab partner Andreia

are working on a project about
the water contamination crisis

in Flint, Michigan.

So we're still trying
to figure out like why

it's taking them so long
to like clean the water up.

NARRATOR:
The goal is to work
toward a solution

and build lead-removing
water filters.

To accomplish that, they'll have
to use their knowledge

of chemistry and engineering.

But first, they have to create
a presentation explaining

why Flint's crisis matters
to their community.

I can't imagine having
to wash up with that,

cook with that, like...

Water is just one
of those things you trust.

HAUGER:
If you're starting to think
about designing

your own projects,
that begs the question,

well, what kind of problems
are you passionate about,

and what things do you really
want to solve

and research and learn about?

It's just like something simple

that you use every day,
you know.

KHANDACE:
I did hear a little bit
about Flint,

but I really didn't know
it was that serious.

Like, kids are
dealing with this.

It made me more aware
of what am I putting in my body.

Like if something big happened
like that in Philadelphia,

will we come together
as a community

like people in Flint did?

Right.

IMMORDINO-YANG:
Children need the freedom

and the support
and the resources

to be able to deep-dive
into topics

that interest them,

so that they learn
what it feels like

to really explore and understand
something.

NARRATOR:
Exploring something of interest
provided Khandace

with an emotional connection
that changed her attitude

toward learning.

MITCHELL:
When I was getting ready
for my old school,

I'd all of a sudden
have a panic attack.

I would be scared
to go to school

because of how bad
the drama was.

Now when I wake up, I'm like,
"What do I have to do

"when I get to school?

Like, who am I ready to see?"

TEACHER:
So which project did you
write about for tenth grade?

I'm writing about
the solar power charger.

MITCHELL:
My experience at The Workshop
School is different.

I started being excited
about what I could do.

That's good progress.

DARLING-HAMMOND:
In communities where
there's a lot of trauma,

these small personalized schools
that enable teachers to create

a curriculum that is
meaningful to kids,

that helps them figure out
how to solve the problems

they see in their community,
are more successful

because they meet the needs
of the students

that they're seeking to serve.

NARRATOR:
In addition to engaging
students,

can project-based learning
help prepare them

for an unpredictable future?

ROSE:
The truth is, the shelf life

for any skill set in this
economy is unbelievably short.

If we don't prepare people
with self-knowledge and agency,

we're never going to be able
to meet the needs

of our modern-day economy.

Our kids are going to have
to work with knowledge

that hasn't been discovered yet,

on technologies that haven't
been invented yet,

solving big problems
we have not managed to solve.

WOMAN:
Here we go, Maddie!

NARRATOR:
For high school senior
Madison Pickett,

who throws strikes as easily
as she gets straight A's...

Let's go, Maddie!

NARRATOR:
...learning through projects

provides lifelong lessons.

(cheers and applause)

PICKETT:
Life throws you problems
that you have to work through.

Things don't work.

You need to solve them,
figure out how they work.

NARRATOR:
The scholar-athlete
acquired this philosophy

on and off the field as part
of a unique four-year program.

It combines science, technology,
engineering, and math,

culminating in a senior project.

PICKETT:
I went in not knowing
what engineering was,

just knowing it had something
to do with math and science.

I was still kind of confused
because this is something

I'd see in, like, a garage.

AMIR ABO-SHAEER:
Our world is becoming
more and more technological,

and we're relying on
and interacting more and more

with technology to do our jobs.

What we do need is people
that are educated

in the way technology works.

NARRATOR:
But unfortunately, not everyone
is encouraged to pursue careers

in technology.

According to a 2014 study,
only three percent

of female high school students
reported any interest

in engineering, compared to 31%
of their male counterparts.

KHAN:
You have all this productivity,
all this wealth being created

from this information revolution
that we're in,

but who participates in it?

So I think your goal
this period and third period

is get this thing installed.

NARRATOR:
When physics teacher
Amir Abo-Shaeer launched

the Dos Pueblos
Engineering Academy

in his California school,
he wanted to address

another form of inequality:

the gender gap
in science and engineering.

If when the piston goes down
again...

ABO-SHAEER:
I can't have 14-year-old girls

and their parents
and their families

deciding at this age to start
shutting doors

on these girls' career future.

The first thing
is just making it accessible.

NARRATOR:
Abo-Shaeer raises private money

for this project-based
public school program.

He also added art courses

and actively recruited
female students.

Their enrollment jumped from
5% to 50% in four years.

ABO-SHAEER:
It's this whole idea of mirrors
rather than windows.

You want the audience to look
at the person they see

and see themselves, as opposed
to looking through a window

and seeing an opportunity
that someone else

is taking advantage of.

We are basically saying,
"We're going to present this

so anybody can see themself
do that."

NARRATOR:
With 41 boys and 41 girls,

this year's senior class
is getting ready

for the Maker Faire competition.

Their entry: a series
of 13 interactive games,

each demonstrating a different
physics principle.

They call it the physics arcade.

PICKETT:
It's going to be
more of a touchpad

kind of you got to move it

rather than, like, clicking
something.

NARRATOR:
Madison's team is building
a game based on volume, density,

and momentum.

But not all the parts
are working.

They're all getting
stuck right now,

and I think that the acrylic
is kind of a different height,

so it's getting stuck
right there on that white.

PICKETT:
Normally, in a classroom,
you get a problem

and you just solve it,
and normally you're using

the equation the teacher
already gave you.

Whereas here,
okay, you have this problem,

you can use math,
but what equation

or what solution do you
need to find.

ABO-SHAEER:
Why don't you guys think?

I have an easy
solution to this.

PICKETT:
This is my problem,
I need this solution.

How can I get there
mathematically?

The problem that you guys
both address is that

it's barely making it.

Why is it barely making it?

Not enough momentum.

Okay,
so what's the easy solution?

Put it back here?
There you go.

NARRATOR:
In addition to carrying a full
load of other core subjects,

academy students must meet

all the math and physics
requirements

of a science
and engineering program,

and then put that knowledge
into practice.

ABO-SHAEER:
Our goal is

to basically provide students

with an educational experience
that satisfies

the traditional requirements
they would need to graduate

in a unique and disruptive way.

What I think attaches the kids
to it is the fact

that they know
it's a real thing.

There are real stakes.

We're going to a competition.

NARRATOR:
With the competition just weeks
away, time is not on their side.

The show must go on.

After months of preparation,
Madison and her classmates

are set to display
their physics arcade

at Maker Faire
in San Mateo, California--

even though it's incomplete.

PICKETT:
We've been in the program
for four years,

and we've all been waiting
for the Maker Faire.

NARRATOR:
Instead of letting audiences
play with the games,

students will have to explain
how the games

are intended to work.

PICKETT:
Because we had the deadline,
a bunch of us would skip class

to go into engineering
to work on our project.

We all wanted to see where
this project would take us.

All right, you guys,
it's hard to scope a project

that finishes at the end
of the school year.

If we were a company,
we could just slip schedule

and like release the project
a month late, you know,

it doesn't matter.
We're not.

We're school, and we're all
trying to do education here.

It's not even about the product.

Focus on the process,
not on the product.

You're going to try and get

the ball through this red tube
into here.

Have the ball travel up,
come down the ramp.

So each of the three shapes
have the same diameter.

And then when you drop them in,

you saw that
linear relationship.

MAN:
Did you guys make all this?

We made everything--
every single piece to this.

Wow.

Cool.

Today was crazy to hear people
kind of say, "This is...

"you're high school students?

"You're so mature,
and you've done all this

and you're only a senior
in high school?"

(laughing):
And we're like, "Yeah, we are!"

All this positive feedback made
us all realize what we've done,

and that even though
we never finished fully,

we've still done so much
this past year.

NARRATOR:
The students from Dos Pueblos
Engineering Academy

did not go home empty-handed.

They won five awards,
including "best in class."

As one of the best in her class,
Madison will embark

on a new engineering adventure
after graduation.

She'll be attending MIT.

PICKETT:
By solving real-life problems
rather than

just sitting in a classroom,
I'm a better problem solver now.

But having all this back-up
in engineering

will definitely help me and I'll
hopefully have a step ahead.

And so there's nine cylinders,
and you're supposed to find out

which one weighs more.

Science and technology
are my favorite subjects,

so this is like my heaven.

STUDENT:
The school of the future

will be kids riding hoverboards
in the hallways.

Okay, so we're gonna have
flying iPads, and flying phones,

and flying computers.

It'd be open, it'd be fun.

I don't really imagine it
having many books,

just like online everything.

Like there won't be
teachers anymore.

It would be like really clean,
because that's a thing for me.

The school of the future
would have to transition

to more of a hands-on
learning experience.

I'm a senior,
I'm not even an adult yet.

I don't remember anything from
my bio class in freshman year.

And so, I think
like the academic stuff

is not as important as...
like teaching students

how to take care of themselves
and how to be happy.

I think if you teach kids
how to manage their life,

they'll be successful.

For mental health,
we need to be given those tools.

MINDFULNESS TEACHER:
We constantly learn about
how to fill our minds

with new information,
but when do we actually learn

to how empty it
and make some space?

NARRATOR:
In an effort to reduce
academic stress,

Gunn High School
is trying mindfulness training

as part of its
physical education program.

MINDFULNESS TEACHER:
Reverse, breathe in, back.

McFAUL:
Out of all this
that happened to our school,

the one good thing that happened
was that culture of checking in.

"How you doin', how you doin',
how you doin'?"

And then not just saying,
"I'm okay," or, "I'm good."

But like actually caring about
how are you actually doing.

DARLING-HAMMOND:
When social-emotional learning
is being fostered,

the kids have the tools
to center and calm themselves,

to be a good member
of the school community,

and a contributing member
of the broader community.

All of those things together
allow us to create

a very different educational
experience that has proved to be

much more successful.

GUILLAUME:
Whether you have everything

or whether you have nothing,

if you don't envision
your future,

you're not going to work for it.

You're not going to try
to protect it.

You're not going to fight
for it.

You're not going to live,
frankly, live for it.

Hey, pass me my notebook.

TEACHER:
All right.

(music starts)

♪ Everyone has a way
of helping ♪

♪ That's why I do this--
to help people ♪

♪ Motivate 'em with my music. ♪

GAYTAN:
Biology got hard.

That's when my advisor stepped
in, my teachers stepped in.

They were like,
"It's going to get harder,"

so I got to get better.

♪ You can accomplish anything
with dedication and hard work. ♪

NARRATOR:
With intervention and support,
Omar maintained his GPA

and continues running
the hip hop club.

Dedication and hard work.

Cut it.

How do you feel about trying
to do that one more time?

Let's do it.

PERKINS:
I think being a freshman boy
really just took a toll on him.

How hard is it
to be 14 years old,

and to get great grades,

and to have friends, and to be
a leader, and to stay there?

That's really hard.

(Omar's song playing)

Man, you're like a master now,
you're like flying through that.

GUILLAUME:
We're all in the business
of taking care of kids,

as educators, as parents,
and hopefully as human beings.

No matter where you live,
there is a teenager

who wants to know
that they matter to someone.

♪ You can accomplish anything
with dedication and hard work. ♪

STEELE:
Our schools need to build
a sense of community

in that students have to feel
that they belong

not only in their community,
but that they belong in society,

that they're going to be
major contributors in society.

That's what a school
of the future has to do.

ALI:
The school of the future
will engage young people,

and always refine itself
to meet them where they are,

and get them to where they need
to be in order to have

a successful life
and fulfill their dreams.

The school of the future must
address the impact of adversity

on children's development.

KHAN:
The school of the future
must recognize that

human beings want to learn, and
if you give them an environment

where it's safe to fail,
safe to learn,

safe to collaborate,
you find joy in it.

DARLING-HAMMOND:
The school of the future
will be more individualized

and more experimental
for all of the people in it

as they learn
to innovate together.

ROSE:
The school of the future
must be able to meet every kid

where they're at and give them
what they need to be successful.

ABO-SHAEER:
The school of the future
must continually innovate

and iterate.

KIRTON:
It has to be less about

the business of school

and more about the relationship
with the child.

VENTILLA:
...and become something
that is

much more interwoven
with people's real lives.

GADSDEN:
It's going to need

to be attentive
to the whole child.

GAC-ARTIGAS:
The school of the future
will extend

far beyond the four walls
of the classroom.

It's going to be mixed age.

It's going to have students
learning at their own pace.

I think the school of the future
is going to be a happy place.

This NOVA program is
available on DVD.
The conversation continues
online,RRATOR:

NOVA is also available
for download on iTunes.