Introducing the Fuse Architect Schools – Barrington High School

Assorted Electronics on table

The only high school within the district of Barrington Public Schools, the school population information for the 2016-17 school year is shared in the table below.

# of students % of Free and Reduced Lunch % of English as a Second Language % of Special Education Services
1000 6% 1% 11%

Barrington High School and the greater Barrington Public Schools recently committed to partnering with the Highlander Institute for direct coaching on project-based experiential learning as well as adopting the Deeper Learning Competencies as defined by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as their pathway to meet the district’s mission — Empowering Students to Excel. These Deeper Learning Competencies are defined as key competencies students must master in order to understand concepts and to be able to apply what they learn to classroom-based and real-world problems. They include:

  • master core academic content
  • think critically and solve complex problems
  • work collaboratively
  • communicate effectively
  • learn how to learn
  • develop academic mindsets

Through a student survey and conversations with recent graduates, Barrington Public Schools realized that although they rank highly in the state, students were not finding enough relevance and applicability in what they were learning in the classroom to college or career. Using the Deeper Learning Competencies as their guide, the district team examined the educational program both at Barrington High School specifically, and across the district. The district team identified the master core academic content and think critically competencies as areas of strength for their school. At the same time, they agreed that learning how to learn, developing academic mindsets, and working collaboratively were areas to be further addressed in their schools. From the district perspective, their Fuse Architect design team’s efforts will serve as a starting point for driving these competencies at the high school level.

In the Fuse Architect application process, Barrington High School identified the need for intentional opportunities for self-directed learning through their newly developed iCreate Zone– a makerspace designed to bring students and teachers together for deeper learning projects. Although Barrington High School had established a location for the iCreate Zone with some criteria and materials, the plan needed measurable goals and objectives, a clear design, interdisciplinary connections, and increased partnerships with the larger community.
The Barrington High School design team has developed a plan for the iCreate Zone that includes:

  • creating a student-run Fabrication Lab with state of the art equipment
  • developing business and industry partnerships
  • leveraging their iCommunity Board to allow students to work directly on projects requested by community members
  • engaging in interdisciplinary projects at the classroom level that promotes student voice and choice around the demonstration of their learning
  • empowering teachers as coaches and facilitators in the space.

To flesh all of this out, the district, teachers, students, and administrators from Barrington have been working collaboratively to select community partners, vet ed-tech products that can facilitate the work, and brainstorm how to make their work tangible for all students and teachers in the high school.

At the end of Phase 1, Barrington High School selected FabNewport as a community partner for their expertise in running Makerspaces in Rhode Island. The partnership is focused on training a core group of students who can run the lab and oversee all of its equipment. Teachers will also receive training and be coached on how to use the iCreate space for helping students become self-directed learners. Through Fuse Architect, their goal is to move Barrington High School forward as a leader in personalized learning. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paula Dillon emphasized, “Collaborating with our students, teachers, and community partners has created the opportunity to personalize learning through experiential, authentic opportunities. Together we are able to imagine and create greater possibilities to empower our students to excel within and beyond the walls of the school.” You can learn more about Barrington High School’s work in an upcoming podcast with Dr. Dillon.


Picture of Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) is a non-biased organization that exists to expand Michigan’s ability to support new learning models, engage in active research to inform new policies in online and blended learning, and strengthen the state’s infrastructures for sharing best practices. MVLRI works with all online learning environments to develop the best practices for the industry as a whole.

The Digital Backpack

Get our latest articles sent straight to your inbox every week!