GUNNISON – When Jackie Burt worked in public schools, she felt that she wanted to teach kids a different way. So, she formed her own program that focused on keeping schoolwork in school.
"I've never believed in homework as a teacher or as a parent," Burt said. "I deeply respect a child's time after school."
Burt founded Orsch, a private school in Gunnison. Orsch stands for "One Room Schoolhouse."
"So we don't have grade levels, we have skill levels," Burt said.
This is a multi-age school where kids are grouped by ability not age. Teachers like Stacy McPhail try to get students to finish all their work during class time.
"As soon as we get into the classroom, we work as quickly as we can to get sat down to get materials out," McPhail, director of science, said.
Burt says the idea of homework doesn't really make sense to her.
"We give homework to children throughout their educational career," Burt said. "Then, as adults, we spend the rest of our lives trying not to bring work home with us and that always seemed incongruent to me."
Since most of the work is done during the day. McPhail tries to spend every moment of class time appealing to different styles of learners.
"So, I may do something that's visual and then I'll do something that's kinesthetic or hands-on," McPhail said. "The kids are constantly involved and engaged."
Students like Dalton Huckins have to manage class time to get daily work done and multi-day projects completed on time by using the time within the school day.
"When I get back home, it's nice to not know, oh God, I have two hours of homework," Dalton, 13 years old, said.
Burt says she wants students to explore other kinds of learning outside of school.
"Our kids leave here with a real desire to learn and to improve their skills," Burt said. "They're efficient."
McPhail believes the habits the kids at Orsch learn will carry over into schools where they do have to do homework.
"We ask them during their school day to prioritize what is most important to get done," McPhail said. "I think that skill is easily transferable to something like college."
Dalton says he likes the extra time at home to play sports, spend time with his family or explore his learning interests.
"I'm self-motivated to learn," Dalton said. "I'm not like, oh my gosh, I have do this."
When Orsch opened in 2009, it started with 22 students. Now, Burt oversees 58 students in a building that is no longer a one-room school. A 1,700 square-foot addition was just completed. But, Burt wants her method to reach far beyond her classroom walls. She wants to make impact on millions of students.
"Honestly, my hope in this entire endeavor is to share the results of this little lab school and improve the world of education," Burt said.
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