Blogs on After-School Learning

Blogs on After-School LearningRSS
Dr. Katie KlingerAugust 1, 2008

This is the second part of a three-part entry. Read part one.

In Hawaii, there will be eighty hours of training at science, technology, engineering, and math institutes during the school year. At these institutes, university professors will guide teachers in how to scale STEM projects to the appropriate grade level. The institutes will employ middle school math and science benchmarks and standards from the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards as the basis for what to cover.

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Diane Demee-BenoitMay 25, 2007

The TechBridge program is alive and well at the Chabot Space & Science Center, in Oakland, California. Selected in 2005 by the National Science Foundation as a model program, TechBridge is an out-of-school program that engages girls in science, technology, and engineering activities. Since its inception, TechBridge has served more than 1,500 girls in five school districts through after-school and summer programs.

The TechBridge program is alive and well at the Chabot Space & Science Center, in Oakland, California. Selected in 2005 by the National Science Foundation as a model program, TechBridge is an out-of-school program that engages girls in science, technology, and engineering activities. Since its inception, TechBridge has served more than 1,500 girls in five school districts through after-school and summer programs.

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Ken MessersmithMay 21, 2007

The report "A New Day for Learning," recently released by the Time, Learning, and Afterschool Task Force, argues that we must redefine the school day if we are to improve student achievement in the United States. The authors of the report, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, lay out five elements of their proposed new learning system.

The first element states that we must "redefine what student success means beyond the acquisition of basic skills, support the time it takes to experience success, and develop sophisticated ways to measure it."

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This three-pronged statement, centered on student success, begins with a call for a new definition for the phrase "student success." Philosophers have debated for centuries about what it is to be an educated person. I am not convinced we can agree on what it is to be successfully educated, but we must individually have some vision in mind if we are to be able to determine whether we have hit the mark.

Most Americans, I believe, would define student success as the ability of a student to support himself or herself in this society after completing the educational process. Our value and belief systems are strongly based on economics and accumulation of material wealth. How often do you hear parents say, "I don't want my children to have to come home to live with me after completing their education"?

It's difficult to argue with the fact that the ability to support oneself economically is a goal of the educational process, but it is not the only goal. If it were, we would not need schools; we could easily achieve success by matching students with professional mentors and letting them learn on the job.

What additional definitions could we use for student success? I would like to suggest a few, and I am interested in what you would add. Student success, I believe, means the ability to

  • understand the rights and responsibilities that allow us to function as contributing members of our democracy.
  • cooperate and collaborate with others in work, social, and family settings.
  • make independent decisions based on reasoning supported by facts gathered and analyzed by students.
  • relate in a positive and constructive manner with family members and other members of the world community.
  • take responsibility for one's own actions and act supportively and compassionately toward others.

Maybe, though, it would be easier to list things that should not be included in our definition of student success. It is not a sign of student success to

  • score highly on an arbitrarily chosen standardized test.
  • help beat a rival football, basketball, or wrestling team into submission.
  • have every student specialize in science, technology, engineering, or math in order to beat the Chinese in the economic realm.
  • efficiently perform repetitive tasks in a factory setting.

How do you define student success? The form of our future educational system is dependent on how we answer this question. Please offer your suggestions.

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Diane Demee-BenoitMay 16, 2007

Year after year, we debate numerous reforms to improve our educational system. Yet we are continually hampered by the conventions of our thinking about -- well, everything. We fall into the same old trap of tinkering around the margins and trying to reform an education system with an ever-increasing number of policies, programs, and regulations piled on top of each other. Even the words we use to talk about improving schools -- school reform -- seem worn and out-of-date.

Last week, a friend and adviser reminded me that the words I often use -- reinventing schools -- still ties us to a system that many say is broken. But here's the real clincher: What we have is not a broken system; it's an obsolete system. When something is obsolete, you develop something new, something better. You use what you've learned from the old, but you don't allow yourself to try to piece together something shattered beyond repair.

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  • Full House

    "Clark County schools have more challenges than Heinz has pickles." Read

Learning Around the Clock

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If we dared to change our frame of reference so that the "school" we all know and many of us work in disappeared tomorrow and we awoke to find a brand-new system of learning -- a web of integrated learning experiences -- what would that educational system look like? If we designed what the recent report "A New Day for Learning" implores that we design, would we hold to our deep-seated belief that learning takes place only when children are put in a room and learning is guided by a system that often operates in a silo?

Would we break the mold and build a robust twenty-first-century learning system, or would we continue our attempts to reform an educational system designed for a simpler age? Would we still have a school bell that signifies that learning ends at a designated hour?

What do you think?

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Ken MessersmithApril 19, 2007

One of the instructional strategies often supported on this site is project-based learning. PBL has been at the heart of vocational agriculture programs since the beginning. All vocational agriculture students participate in the Future Farmers of America's Supervised Agricultural Experience Programs, which consist of projects carried out individually or in groups.

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