Alternative education options enrich students’ learning

Senior Zoe Boxill writes an argumentative essay for a Mosaic project. (Photo by Elliot Goldman)

It’s 12:50. You have two minutes before lunch is over, and you have to be back in the classroom watching lectures, taking notes and trying not to fall behind. It’s tedious, but mastering memorization and study habits are the only option to be a successful student, right? 

Not necessarily. Students who are interested in alternative forms of education have these experiences outside of the traditional high school classroom.

Seniors Sam Schulman and Matt Levy have been taking several classes at The Ohio State University through the Ohio State Academy, which is an application-only program that connects high school students with various internships or classes that align with their interests, Schulman explained.

“I’m taking Astronomy, English 101, and Intro to Politics all online with OSU this semester,” he noted. “Deciding to take these classes has given me great preparation for future college classes.”

Levy has taken four classes with the Ohio State Academy, and not only has he valued the experience of college classes, but the program has also helped him determine where his interests lie when it comes to make his actual college decision. 

“I was considering majoring in statistics or something like that in college, but once I took an Intro to Stats class at OSU, I realized that it’s not an area of math that I’m interested in as the focal point of my major,” he explained.

Levy has had only enriching, enjoyable experiences with the Ohio State Academy and the college courses they offer.

“With college courses, you’re not just taking the class to get a good grade, you’re taking it because it’s something you’re really interested in, and I think that’s really great,” he said.

Levy believes that there is great value in taking college courses, in particular to receive good preparation for collegiate level classes and enjoy the vast selection of courses, he said. 

“I like these courses because you can get more of a college experience than an AP class,” he said. “There’s such a variety of classes open for enrollment that everybody could find one they’re interested in.”

Another option that strays from traditional education is Mosaic, a humanities-based program alternative to traditional social studies and English classes that seniors Mimi Calhoun and Zoe Boxill are enrolled in. The program includes students from all over Franklin County and meets downtown during periods five, six and seven, Calhoun explained. 

There are no tests or quizzes, and all credit is based on group work, presentations and essays, Calhoun said. She added that this alternative form of instruction plays to the strengths of students who are more comfortable expressing their own opinions and being able to explain themselves through writing.

“I’m definitely not a textbook or lecture type of student,” Calhoun said. “I work a lot better creatively, and I wanted to try something different.”

Boxill also prefers the alternative form of student evaluation that Mosaic offers, measuring the success of their students in a variety of ways. She said classes are centered around group discussion and collective sharing of ideas and perspectives to broaden the students’ worldviews.

“You have to be ready for activism and accepting different opinions,” Boxill said. “You also need to get used to being wrong and letting go of thoughts you previously had.”

Both Calhoun and Boxill are in their second year of Mosaic, and while the pandemic has limited group meetings to once a week, the program is still operating well. Students work on their assignments from home and attend discussions via Zoom multiple times a week, Calhoun explained.

Boxill said Mosaic and other alternative programs provide an enriching substitute for traditional high school. Students who decide to participate in such options consistently receive significant value in their learning and are happy with their choice, she said.

“One hundred percent of students would benefit from Mosaic,” Boxill said. “It’s personally given me a greater appreciation of what I have and (of) also the city of Columbus.”

Schulman agrees that experiential learning opportunities can enrich the learning experience of any student. 

“I 100% recommend college classes and alternative programs,” Schulman said.  “It’s a great experience to see what a college course is like.”