Navigator Blog

Cultivating a Portrait of a Graduate Beyond School Walls

January 26, 2022

One of the most meaningful things about a district having a shared vision for 21st century learning—a Portrait of a Graduate—is getting to experience what happens when it comes to life for all students. And one district has found ways for students to proactively be an essential part of bringing the vision to life.

EdLeader21 Network members got a glimpse into how Granville Exempted Village Schools in Ohio bring its Portrait of a Graduate to life during a virtual site visit. Members had a front-row seat and saw how Granville Schools, a fellow EdLeader21 Network member district, cultivate deeper learning experiences in the Land Lab, Ohio’s largest outdoor K-12 educational facility.

Over the past eight years, Granville Schools has adapted its space to help students learn about life, physical, and environmental sciences, math, English, art, and music. Stemming from a strong vision and support from community partnerships, district leaders have wholeheartedly put 21st century learning into action and found innovative ways to help students find their passion beyond classroom walls. 

During the live, interactive site visit, network members heard directly from students about various projects in the Land Lab. Each student spoke with excitement and shared how they are developing competencies outlined in the Portrait of a Graduate. Even if a school system doesn’t have access to a Land Lab, there are inspiring lessons Granville Schools is sharing to help others accelerate deeper learning and impact student learning.

1. Granville’s Portrait of a Blue Ace sets the stage and keeps community partners involved.

Granville Schools’ Portrait of a Graduate demonstrates the collective vision the community has for all students.  
“Our Portrait of a Graduate serves as the guide for what we are trying to achieve in all learning experiences,” said Superintendent Jeff Brown. “It lays the foundation for meaningful projects that solidify learning and empower students.”
The community played a role in developing the Portrait of a Graduate, but the support didn’t stop there. Local partners like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and community neighbors have stepped in to help Granville students maintain the Land Lab. Their support helps ensure 21st century, deeper learning experiences will continue in the district.

2. Granville students are encouraged to explore what matters to them.

AP Environmental Science teacher Jim Reding intentionally asks his students about their passions. Once students identify a topic they are passionate about, they have the autonomy to design and create a plan for their “Take Action” projects, an opportunity for them to positively impact the environment and connect with the greater community.  
“It’s not only about content,” he said. “It’s about what you do with it. We’re not preparing them for a test; we’re preparing them for life.”

Some of this year’s Take Action projects include:

  • Introducing goats to the Land Lab’s ecosystem with assistance from the community.
  • Collecting monarch butterfly eggs and monitoring their development and impact on local farming.
  • Creating a cookbook of recipes with ingredients found in local community gardens.
  • Improving access to nature by building containers for trees that can be used in an inside or urban environment.
  • Coordinating a clothing drive, then holding a thrifting event in hopes of decreasing clothing waste.
  • Organizing a benefit concert to raise funds for the Land Lab and educate attendees on the importance of environmental conservation.

3. Granville educators and staff guide and support students in their learning.

Throughout the school year, students work to bring their projects to life. The intentional designing and nurturing of learning experiences at Granville Schools empower and motivate students to work on something that aligns with their passions.

“Through my work on this project, I’ve learned about having responsibility for something bigger than myself,” said student Alana Biehle. “What we’re doing could have a lasting impact on the community.”  
“The teachers here at Granville encourage our passions and help us own our learning,” said student Conor Male. “This experience allows me to utilize my public speaking with my passion for the environment. I get so excited to share this with others so they can do something similar.”

Deeper learning can happen anywhere, in any environment. Granville Schools is just one example of an EdLeader21 Network member district bringing 21st century learning to life for all students.
EdLeader21, the national network of Battelle for Kids, is a vibrant community of school systems committed to 21st century learning for every student. When a district joins the EdLeader21 Network, all educators can engage in collaborative professional learning and networking to transform their educational systems and help one another learn, share, and grow. Granville Schools shared their work to inspire others during a virtual site visit exclusive to network members. Learn more about this professional learning network that connects like-minded education leaders.