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120 kids in one class? At Kuna Middle School, teachers call it 'synergy'

"It's a beautiful mess. It works together really well,”

KUNA, Idaho — We highlight an Innovative Educator every Monday morning, and many times the “innovation” comes from added technology, or added learning tools in the classroom; like musical instruments or computer programs. This week’s Innovative Educator is innovative in a different way; not with added equipment in the classroom, but with added students into one giant learning space. Bri Eggers shows us a large middle school class in Kuna that the students call a “beautiful mess.”

“We've had it described as Montessori for middle school,” says Kuna Middle School mentor, Kevin Murphy. “Kids are wandering all over the place. You can see them right now, working on different things of their choosing, at their own pace, at the time that they want to.”

This is “Synergy” at Kuna Middle School.

“It's just such a great community. I would like to do this forever,” says 8th grader, William Pressley.

Murphy tells us the program was created by a few teachers who were trying to make learning more meaningful for each individual student.

“My partner teacher over here stopped me in the hallway one day and she said, ‘Hey, I have this crazy idea. What if we put four teachers in a giant classroom, with a whole bunch of kids running all over the place?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, let's do that.’”

The 6th through 8th graders know what to expect for the school year, right from day one.

“Our kids have an entire year's worth of curriculum laid out before them at the start of the year,” says Murphy.” “So they know exactly what they're going to do and they can plow through it as quickly as they want or when they run into a roadblock, they have time to deal with that.”

“In Synergy, you have to manage your time well,” Pressley explains.

“They have every piece of material that they need for math and science and language arts and history available at all times. So they don't lose any paperwork. If we're reading a novel, I have a copy of it online as well so they can access it there,” says Murphy.

“I have that extra challenge of like, I have what I need to do and get done,” says 8th grader, Emmaleigh Wright.

“It's all self-paced,” Pressley says. “So, if I'm struggling with a checkpoint I can ask someone who has it done or I can go to a mentor and ask them.”

Murphy says, “They get a lot of freedoms to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. They have the opportunity to fail and then pick up from that failure.”

In this class, there are 120 students, working in the same space, at their own pace.

“They just have all of these different skills that we force upon them in here by throwing them into the real world and making them do things like check a calendar, check email, communicate with a teacher,” Murphy says.

The Synergy students say they want to come to school every day.

“To me, it's more like a third family,” Wright says.

“You have your entire community in here with you. Everybody's friends with everybody,” says Pressley.

“It's hectic. It's chaotic. It's messy. It's loud. There's a lot of yelling. There's a lot of laughing, but it's a beautiful mess. It works together really well,” says Murphy.

We feature an Innovative Educator every Monday here on Today's Morning News. If there's a teacher you would like to nominate, you can email us at innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.