Podcast: Rebecca Amis on Taking Student-Centered Learning Global

Rebecca Amis (@rebeccaamis) went to Bard with aspirations to be a writer but a class in behavioral science turned her path to early childhood development. She studied how children develop empathy with experts like Martin Hoffman at NYU.

In graduate school, she became enamored with the Reggio Emilia approach and the mutual respect it fostered between teachers and child. She went on to launch a Reggio inspired school in Kansas.

When her sister Suzy Amis Cameron called about starting a school in California, Rebecca was quick to help. In 2006, they launched an elementary school will 11 students off the coast of Malibu. The MUSE School now serves over 200 students from preschool through high school on two campuses in Calabasas.

MUSE teachers help students create a Blueprint for their learning. Next steps are guided by learning goals and passions and tailored to how they learn best. Teachers weave math, science and language arts into group and individual projects.

At the end of each semester, students share their public products illustrating growth on the five pillars: passion-based learning, academics, self-efficacy, communication, and sustainability.

We’ve been making the case that climate action should be central to the K-12 curriculum because attempting to mitigate the climate crisis and adapt to life on a hotter planet will monopolize the lives of young people for the next three decades. MUSE might be the best example of a school that has done that with a robust sustainability agenda, a great seed-to-table program and vegan kitchen, and climate action integrated across the curriculum.

Co-founder of Big Picture Learning, Elliott Washor is a friend of the school and has influenced the sustainability agenda and secondary experience which is packed with internships and community-connected learning. Washor helped Odyssey STEM Academy, a public high school on the other side of LA adopt the seed-to-table program (see feature).

Going plant-based in 2012 wasn’t universally accepted– MUSE lost some families. But Rebecca and Suzy made the case to families that going plant-based for one meal a day was a sustainable healthy choice. Suzy expanded her argument in her 2018 book Change the World by Changing One Meal a Day. Today, having the greenest kitchen in the world is a big selling point for MUSE.

MUSE teachers seek “to kindle each child’s unique spark, fostering graduates who become bold leaders engaged with the world around them.”

After being recognized by HundrED for being one of the most innovative schools in the world, demand to visit and replicate MUSE grew rapidly. Rebecca formed Muse Global to share the key elements of the model with communities around the world. She developed a franchise model for people that want to join a community of education entrepreneurs and gain access to a proven system with strong supports.

Key Takeaways:
[:52] When and why did Rebecca initially get interested in early childhood learning?
[3:50] Rebecca shares the history of her career.
[6:15] Fastforwarding to MUSE, Rebecca tells the origin story of the school.
[10:10] What the learning experience is like in elementary school at MUSE.
[11:50] What the learning experience is like in middle and high school at MUSE.
[13:10] Where to pre-order Tom’s new book, The Power of Place!
[14:12] Rebecca shares the influences that Elliot Washer of Big Picture Learning had on MUSE.
[15:19] Rebecca speaks about MUSE’s Seed-to-Table program and how it fits into the life of the school.
[17:40] Rebecca elaborates on how MUSE is a plant-based school and what that means for kids on campus and the environment.
[21:15] How public schools across Los Angeles are following MUSE’s lead.
[21:54] Rebecca’s strategies for sharing what she learned at MUSE with the world and how she’s supporting others doing similar work.
[23:00] Rebecca speaks about MUSE Global and what they’re doing to influence schools around the world.
[28:14] Where to go online and learn more about MUSE.
[28:35] Tom thanks Rebecca for joining the podcast.

Mentioned in This Episode:
MUSE School
MUSE Global
Martin Hoffman — NYU
Reggio Emilia Approach
Early Head Start
The Power of Place: Authentic Learning Through Place-Based Education, by Tom Vander Ark,
Emily Liebtag, and Nate McClennon

Big Picture Learning
Forks Over Knives (Film, 2011)
Rebecca’s Email: [email protected]

For more see

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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