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How Does Authentic Learning Play a Role in CAST Schools?


On March 26, we invited local educators to visit three classrooms at CAST Lead High School in East Central ISD to observe Blended Learning in action.


At CAST, our students should experience Blended Learning, along with project–based learning and career-connected learning, as part of our commitment to Authentic Learning, one of our 4 Pillars.


Blended Learning is a fancy term for incorporating technology into the classroom as a way to give students greater opportunities for choices in what they learn, and opportunities to learn at their own pace.


It was exciting to walk the classrooms, and observe high levels of student engagement, and students helping each other. Junior Cinsere Runnels Gentry explained to our tour group how the “choice board” allowed him to stay organized, better manage his time, and dig deeper into the business topics that most interested him, noting he felt like his learning had taken root because of his ownership of it.


A highlight for me was the panel of students and teachers after our walk through. Senior Tyson Toscano spoke about how blended learning had helped him develop metacognition, and freshman Sage Mirelles spoke about how the model gave her the ability to self-direct her time and her learning.


In education there is so much focus on academic content, but little attention is paid to these important skills that allow young people to take charge of their own learning. It gave me a chill to hear these young people use these specific terms, because more than any test result, it demonstrated they understood what they were doing, and left me certain of their future success in life.


Last week my Instagram feed was filled with photos of kayaks, turtles, fish, dragonflies, and communal cooking as 9th and 10th grade students from CAST Teach in Northside ISD spent their first time overnight at the indescribably beautiful H-E-B Outdoor School camp in Leakey, Texas. After they returned, students shared the highlights from their outdoor learning experience, including the surprisingly positive impact of a “good detox from social media.”


Among many lessons, 10th grader Iyaleah Guerra said, “it made me realize that teaching would not just be inside four walls.”


A few weeks earlier, 140 CAST Med high school students traveled to this gorgeous natural area, where the nonprofit BRIO Institute, affiliated with the San Antonio Orthopedic Group (TSAOG) joined them to provide Wilderness Medical training, leading hands-on demonstrations on how to handle shock, snakebites and hypothermia, practicing splinting and moving injured patients, and more.


Asked what they would want the folks from the Outdoor School to know, the students from CAST Teach wanted to thank them for being “kind, nice, understanding, and for always finding a way to answer their questions.”


I want to take a minute to thank the H-E-Butt Foundation for this important and long-standing partnership, which allows students from our 5 high schools plus the Advanced Learning Academy to take an annual overnight trip where they learn about nature and the outdoors. 


Every year as we celebrate our graduates, I am struck by how many of our seniors recall this trip to the Outdoor School as a highlight of their high school experience, a time where they tried new things, saw the stars, gathered around campfires, bonded with their teachers and peers, and made incredible memories. We are so grateful to the Foundation for making this experience possible for all of our CAST students.


Jeanne Russell

Executive Director

CAST Schools


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The Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) Network is a tax-exempt organization as described in Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Service code. CAST Schools are partnership schools with a focus on STEM careers, project based learning and work-based learning. Key partners include public school districts, higher education institutions, and local employers from target industries.