Inquiry Based Learning in Austin, at Magellan International School

Scott Francis
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From time to time I’ll post an article on Medium on a more personal topic, but I’ll try to share links here for the ones that our readers might relate to.  Recently I posted over on Medium about my volunteering, beginning at the end of this school year, as President of the Board of Magellan International School:

I landed on the board partly because of my experience with another startup — BP3, and it has been a fantastic learning experience for me — our school now serves nearly 450 students. If you ever have the chance to volunteer with your school, I strongly recommend you do it — few activities are as rewarding, and few things will put a smile on your face the way kids will.

But this post isn’t about my role at Magellan, but rather, about how the Magellan experience parallels BP3, and how language learning might relate to BPM…

It turns out that Magellan International School is entering it’s 8th school year in the fall, and BP3 is beginning its 10th year in business this summer (9th anniversary coming up!).  In many respects, Magellan is a startup of the non-profit kind.  In it’s first year, with only 40 students, Magellan was a labor of love for the pioneer families. Their hard work and investment made Magellan an attractive options for early adopters like my own family, who joined in years two through seven.  Anytime you have 10x growth over 7 or 8 years, you have found what we would call in startup-land, a product-market fit. 

Like a startup, every year Magellan matures and shows signs of the beautiful institution it will become, as processes that were previously ad-hoc or hero-driven become normal course of business and performed effectively at scale. For a process guy like myself, watching Magellan grow has been a study in business processes at an educational institution and a great learning experience.

Equally, it has been eye opening for me to observe the process of learning through the eyes of my children and their friends.  Magellan’s pre-school and elementary are Spanish immersion programs with an International Baccalaureate curriculum.  Our Middle School is not language immersion but focuses on advancing inquiry based learning and the IB program.  Perhaps the most interesting insight I’ve gained from Magellan is the perspective that you can describe the most interesting kinds of learning as language acquisition.

First, any time you learn a new language, language isn’t just a new set of synonyms in your mind, a new language alters the way you think. Language alters the way you interact with your fellow humans on this earth — in particular the ones who speak the same language.

Second, if you think about any category of learning or education that really changes the way you think and see the world — you probably can describe that category as a language or language skill. Music. Art. Math. Science (Scientific Method). Design. Coding. In my mind, these are all languages, and the way we learn them is language acquisition. They change the way your mind works and the way you think — and the benefits are life-long.

If you think about learning as language acquisition, I think Magellan is the right place for your family. I know that it means the world to me for my children to have fluency and literacy in English, Spanish, and Mandarin – not to mention Math, Science, Art, Music. Design.  (Coding coming soon).

Turning to BPM… it might be a stretch to think of process and BPMN and DMN as language in the same sense as the above examples… but maybe not.  Working with processes and BPMN and DMN has changed the way I think, the way I look at the world, the way I solve problems.  It meets most of the criteria I’ve set.