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Bitney Prep students ’learn through interest’

Submitted to The Union

“One Student at a Time” and “Real World Learning” are not just meaningless catchphrases at Bitney Prep Charter High School, they are guiding principles. Nowhere is this better seen than in their commitment to their Learning Through Interest program. Because of COVID-related restrictions, Bitney Prep students haven’t had the same sort of access that they normally would as part of Bitney’s one full day a week Internship program, so students are, instead, given carte blanche to pursue new interests and passions on their own.

Grace Crain is a sophomore at Bitney Prep and for her Learning Through Interest project, she has taken up photography.
Provided photo

Grace Crain is a sophomore at Bitney Prep and for her Learning Through Interest project, she has taken up photography. Grace has always had an interest in photography, but had never really thought about pursuing it until the beginning of this year. Now she’s all in. “It’s almost like I can escape into my photos,” Grace says. “When I edit my pictures it just takes me out of reality for a moment and puts me into the world of the photo. It’s a way for me to imagine there’s another world out there, something more than just a 9 to 5 job and a world where people are controlled by what they hear on TV. Taking and editing pictures are my escape from reality and forever will be.”

Embracing photography has been transformative for Grace. Her advisor, Bitney Prep Science teacher Amy Pugel, has seen some real growth and maturity in Grace since the beginning of the school year. “I’ve seen Grace grow in her self-confidence by sharing her art with her peers. There is nothing more honest than the collective ‘Wow!’ from her fellow students when she shares a new photo. I think she’s more accepting of her work because she sees that others appreciate her talent, and it’s a talent, for sure. Many people don’t have an ‘eye’ that can see the world and set it up just right to capture that moment, but Grace definitely does.”

And it’s not just self-confidence that Grace has gained. “I’ve gained way more patience through this project,” says Grace. “There’s a lot of waiting on the editing to turn out how I want, as well as taking hundreds of photos just to have a couple be the finishing product.”

All of this is at the heart of what Bitney Prep Charter High School aims at for its students: authentic education that pushes students to move into their future with purpose. As Pugel says, “The value of this type of project is many-fold: Grace is teaching herself new skills through using her camera, she’s gaining experience and self-confidence and an openness to sharing when she’s an otherwise private person. She’s sharing art with the world and pieces of herself as well. Her willingness to explore new avenues that branch off from her art shows personal growth, an openness to taking chances, and that’s what these Learning Through Interest projects are really about.”

As for the future, Grace still has two and half years left of high school, but she knows that she wants to continue exploring her art. “I would love to continue to take pictures, maybe for the school newspaper or maybe as a wedding photographer. I find beauty in everything. Thinking about the future is a hard thing for me to do, though, because you never know what’s actually going to happen.” While this is true, Grace feels more positive about her future than ever before. She has found her passion and is gaining the skills to pursue it.

Pugel knows this too, “Grace and I started talking about possible post-high school options for her to learn more about photography and she asked for more information about what those options might include. Looking toward the future and how to make your place in the world with greater confidence in the direction you’re going – that’s invaluable.”

“One Student at a Time” and “Real World Learning” aren’t just catchphrases at Bitney Prep Charter High School. Grace Crainand her Learning Through Interest project in photography are clear examples of this and the benefits of embracing these ideas.

Source: Bitney Prep High School

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