Founded in 1999 by Bennington College faculty members Susan Sgorbati and Danny Michaelson, Quantum Leap addresses concerns regarding the lack of academic engagement in the population of local elementary, middle, and high school students. Originally, as a response to truancy and drop out prevention, Quantum Leap has since diversified to include a wide variety of specialized initiatives. These initiatives each address some of the many reasons why students are often challenged to succeed or struggle to find value and relevancy in their education. Students of Quantum Leap develop personalized academic plans (modeled after the ones that Bennington College students use to structure their studies at the College), and these plans assist students as they gain ownership of their educational path.
Quantum Leap has blossomed into many far-reaching initiatives with several specialized projects, including:
- The Quantum Leap Exhibit Program: An academic re-engagement program at Mount Anthony Union High School, the Quantum Leap Exhibit Program services students through smaller, more individualized classes under the premise that personal choice and projects-based learning are essential to student success. With an intensive, research and writing, media-driven curriculum, the student body is diverse, consisting of those who are actively seeking a challenge, those interested in performance-based education, those wishing to polish their researching and writing skills, and those who are deemed “at risk” (key identifying factors for a student being deemed “at risk” include a loss of class credit at the Middle School level, those who are currently struggling in school, or those who state they are “bored” with typical classroom setting). At the conclusion of each semester, students are presented with an opportunity to demonstrate what they are capable of achieving by showcasing their accomplishments in a formal setting. These exhibits are open to the public and free of charge.
- The Sababa Project: A Bennington College course taught on the campus of Mount Anthony Union High School, the Sababa Project is a collaborative effort between Bennington College and two Mount Anthony Union High School programs (the Quantum Leap Exhibit Program and the Bridges Summer Transitional Program). The Sababa Project attempts to demystify the college experience, while providing freshman students with hands-on, real-world, academic experiences. The student body enrollment of this collaborative 12 week college course consists of both high school freshman and college students. The curriculum is focused on topics of personal identity and growth, human consumption, global awareness, conflict, public action, environmental and economic sustainability.
- Quantum Leap Mosaic Art : A class offered by the Quantum Leap Exhibit Program, Quantum Leap Mosaic Art focuses on teaching students the ancient art form of mosaics. Students build an appreciation for art and history while constructing several intricate pieces of original art. As part of the process, in depth research is done in preparation for the construction and narrative of their written presentation. As students are developing their artistic abilities, they are also building follow-through and improving their work ethic, learning dedication and commitment to a task, developing responsibility to a team, cultivating an appreciation for the talents and attributes of others, refining the ways they express themselves, and understanding the connections this ancient art form has had throughout history. All of these lessons in life are applicable in the “real world,” in personal development, and in job and career readiness. At the conclusion of the class, student work is exhibited to the community and students participate in local entrepreneurship endeavorsr.
- Quantum Leap Video News: An in-house production studio, Quantum Leap Video News, is hosted by the Quantum Leap Exhibit Program. Combining project based learning, presentation skills, an intensive research and writing component, and media literacy workshops, the project will continue to engage students in relevant issues while providing them with a venue that encourage the exchange of ideas, reflection, and feedback.
- Quantum Leap Academic Support and Assistance Program (ASAP): An after-school academic support group, the Quantum Leap Academic Support Program focuses on assisting struggling high school students with their homework, class projects, and assignments. Academic mentors from Bennington College work one-on-one with students and provide additional support services such as mentoring, advocacy, and encouragement.
- The Project Program: Local individuals and businesses team up with the Quantum Leap program in various projects that focus on a craft or trade. These partnerships serve to foster connections between students and members of the community. In one such project, the executive chef of Pangaea Restaurant in North Bennington taught students how to cook a gourmet meal, which they then prepared and served for their family and friends, patrons of the restaurant, and guests. In other projects, students and community members designed and planted a garden in the high school’s public courtyard. In yet another, students created a Girls’ Group at the high school, focusing on healthy relationships. Other projects have included a quilting project with The Quiet Valley Quilters’ Guild, Blooming Chefs (a project that focused on organic gardening, nutrition, cooking, and writing), a collaboration with the Center for Restorative Justice on a theater production based on Twelve Angry Men (with two real judges playing the role of the judge), a collaboration between parents and the Project Against Violent Encounters (to create a parents’ workshop titled “Healthy Mind, Body and Family”), and annual picnics at Lake Shaftsbury State Park with families, friends, mentors, teachers, and students associated with the program.
- Projects with Bennington College International Students: International students attending Bennington College have developed a number of projects throughout the years for Quantum Leap, including establishing a letter exchange between local high school students and students from Karachi and Pakistan. Another group of international students constructed a project of cooking meals from other countries at the local STEP/PLUS facilities. Yet another developed a website to initiate conversations and exchanges between students at the middle school and students in Kenya, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Dominican Republic. Additionally, since 2013, many Bennington College International Students have opted to spend their winter Field Work Term assisting the teachers of the Quantum Leap Exhibit Program by working with students in the classroom. This unique opportunity for local high school students brings diversity into the classroom and allows them to learn firsthand about other cultures, and about living and studying in other regions around the world.
Former programs of Quantum Leap:
- Quantum Leap After-School Mentoring Program: This program was the first program in Quantum Leap in 1999 and was integrated into several local schools. Quantum Leap worked with the Department of Children and Families to launch a pilot program working with students in foster care and on probation.
- Project Leap: An after-school, experientially-based program for students at the local Mount Anthony Union High School, the Project Leap initiative focused on students who normally would not have considered themselves college bound, and engaged them in activities such as local college visits, learning expeditions, and crafts
- Quantum Leap In-School Academic Tutoring Program: This program was specifically designed to help students at high risk of failing one or more classes in a given semester. Students worked one-on-one with tutors to complete classwork and regain good academic standing in their scheduled classes.