Self-directed learning alternative is goal of Canton teacher
Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - 8:24 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

CANTON-- A Canton teacher has started an alternative learning center for disenfranchised students interested in a self-directed education model.

“This is not a school. This is for people who are in other educational situations, who are unhappy and want to become independent learners,” Deep Root Center for Self-Directed Learning founder Maria Corse said. “The model is that we access people from the community to teach classes or do tutorials with students in subjects they are interested in.”

She said students she works with would be considered homeschoolers.

“We create individualized plans that will be submitted to the local school district,” she said.

The plans would be looked at, and approved, by school superintendents and quarterly reports would be filed with the school. Upon completion, students would not receive a diploma, but would get a letter from the superintendent stating that they had satisfied all New York State high school requirements.

Corse said students would not be forced to study subjects they are not interested in, but that doesn’t mean they would be at a disadvantage when applying for college.

“The way the current school system is built is they tell kids what they should do, or what they have to do. That depresses self-motivation,” she said.

At Deep Root, she said students will learn the value of a subject and take the initiative to learn it themselves.

“Say a student is interested in computer science. To get into college they need basic math skills. Instead of an adult telling them they need it, they will discover that for themselves and pursue it,” she said. “When someone is self-motivated they are driven to learn.”

She said the learning method is similar to that used by North Star: Self Directed Learning Center, a Massachusetts organization that focuses on community-based learning.

Corse said she has one student enrolled at the center, which will open Jan. 6. She said that student has an interest in computers and she will be looking for experts in the community interested in helping the youth.

“I have a degree and anthropology, I can teach social sciences. And I am a writer, so I can help with that. I don’t know how to build a computer, but I will be reaching out to the community to find someone who can,” she said.

Corse has ten years experience teaching at an alternative school. She said she started Deep Root because many parents are frustrated with the public school system. She said common core curriculum, staff reductions, funding cuts and large class sizes are hindering education.

“There is a lot of dissatisfaction and I want to offer something different,” she said.

The learning center is located at 17 Main St. in Canton. It will be open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. An open house is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 8. For more information visit deeprootcenter.org