Collaborative problem solving is central to the Seaport Academy program, which serves young men in Grades 8-12. Developmentally, the teen years are an ideal time to learn to build productive relationships, identify barriers to success and overcome previous pitfalls – all key components of problem solving.
Seaport’s Learning Institutes and Academic Fairs, intensive project-based opportunities, provide a “deep-dive” into creative problem solving. The institutes take place largely outside of the classroom, and according to Seaport Director Alex Tsonas, offer physically immersive, hands-on, project-based learning. The academic fairs are more researched-based and usually take place onsite. Both are weeklong and are offered four times a year.
Out-of-the-Box Thinking and Problem Solving
During the institutes, students take a daylong class that offers “out-of-the-box” thinking and problem solving. For example, one institute taught students entrepreneurial skills by building Adirondack chairs. They had to figure out how to create a product on a specific timeline and with a limited budget.
“The students created the model for the chairs, created the budget, built the chairs and then sold a half dozen chairs,” explains Alex. “The idea is to make learning come alive for students.” Instead of reading a book or watching a video, the students are learning hands-on how to solve problems through these projects.
The more research-based academic fairs give students a chance to exercise problem-solving skills in similar ways. The intensive, week-long fairs take an overarching theme and create classes on a subtopic.
For example, a winter 2022 fair was on technology. Classes were offered on the history of computers, artificial intelligence, food technology and more. Students created a product to illustrate their learning. For fairs, students might create a video, a poster board, an essay, etc.
Jumpstart Academic Progress
Learning Institutes and Academic Fairs serve to teach students about problem solving in another way, one equally critical to their educational journey. Many of the students at Seaport Academy struggle with gaps in their education. This lack of success in earlier educational settings has left them with fewer credits, and they feel that they might never catch up and graduate.
The intensive week-long institutes and fairs allow students to make up credits and jumpstart their academic progress. They can make up course credits through an institute or fair while still earning credits through their other term-long courses. Working with staff, the students are able to target the classes they need to erase the gaps. The broad range of subjects for both gives students a powerful chance to problem solve and gain real agency over their educational journey.
For Seaport students, developing these skills is key to determining how to move forward to graduation and life after high school.