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Our Philosophy » Real World Learning

Real World Learning

All of our students spend a significant amount of time prospecting, interviewing, and working at internships in an area of their interest. While Big Picture schools are focused on students pursuing their passions in the workplace, we are not vocational schools in the traditional sense. Rather than training students to follow a particular career path, the internship structure is designed to foster students’ intellectual development through first-hand experience. Hence, our internships are called “Learning Through Internships” (LTIs) to distinguish their academic focus. Many of our students take courses at community colleges, and spend their days developing rigorous academic projects based in the work they do at their internship sites. We expect all of our students to continue their education after high school, and internships are great opportunities for students to envision possible paths for their future.

Learn more about our five keys to successful internships:
 
Finding the Right Match
Students interested in an organization typically initiate the relationship by arranging an informational interview in which they come to a location and speak with someone about the work he or she does, as well as to further present details about the school, and their individual interests in the field. If the informational interview goes well for both the student and his host, a student follows up with a “Shadow Day” in which he returns to the organization and spends a day observing the work of a staff member that could serve as his mentor. Following the Shadow Day, if all is still going well, the student’s advisor arranges a meeting between student, advisor, and the potential mentor from the organization. No commitment is required of the internship site until that meeting. Students complete a range of internship projects over their four years of high school in order to develop mastery of all of their Learning Goals and associated Content Standards.
 
Internship Requirements
Students are required to spend a minimum of twelve hours a week at their internship site. Internship length varies according to the fit between the needs of the host site and the student’s needs. Typically students spend their school hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at their internship sites, however if more meaningful work would be possible in the late afternoons or evenings on those days, that too is possible. Typically, internships last between 2 and 9 months.
 
Internship Mentors
Every internship site designates one person who serves as the official Mentor for the student. Mentors are responsible for outlining and supporting the daily work of the intern, as well as participating in meetings with the student’s advisor (at least once every 4-6 weeks). One of the most powerful ways to push students to do better is by creating situations where their work is assessed according to real-world standards. This occurs regularly at internship sites.
 
Support for Mentors
Advisors serve as support to Mentors by making sure that the work an intern is asked to do is completed in a timely and professional manner. Advisors are also perpetually available to discuss interns’ work habits and skills, and to help ensure that the relationship between intern and host site are mutually beneficial. Advisors spend Monday, Wednesday, and Friday supporting the off-site work of individual students, helping them develop skills that will enable them to contribute increasing amounts to the internship site.
 
Benefits for the Internship Site
Big Picture student Interns work two full days per week without pay, contributing their time and their excitement about the field to the workplace. In addition, interns will produce, with input from their mentors, projects that will be useful to their host sites. In the past, projects have been very diverse, from writing multilingual brochures for clients to creating an informational video for a site to conducting an in-depth research project including gathering and analyzing relevant empirical data.a post-secondary education and scholarship plan.