Authenticity -- we know it works! There is research to support the value of authentic reading and writing. When students are engaged in real-world problems, scenarios and challenges, they find relevance in the work and become engaged in learning important skills and content. In addition, while students may or may not do stuff for Mr. Miller, they are more likely to engage when there is a real-world audience looking at their work, giving them feedback, and helping them improve. This is just one critical part of project-based learning. However, maybe you aren't ready for fully authentic projects. Where are some good places to start taking the authenticity up a notch in your classroom?
Providing your students with a public audience is not only a critical part of the project-based learning process, but it's also a great strategy for building authenticity into assignments to create work that matters. We often leverage our students' parents and guardians in this process because 1) they are easily accessible, and 2) they are our partners in their children's learning plans. Why not then continue and build this partnership in PBL? John Larmer wrote a great blog about how to build parent support for PBL, and one of the best ways he mentions is to keep them involved in the PBL project you launch in your classroom. Here are some strategies to consider as you leverage parents for your next PBL project.
The Maker movement continues to gain momentum. At this year's White House Science Fair, President Obama invited Super-Awesome Sylvia from Auburn, California to exhibit her water color robot as a representative of the Maker community. At the same event, the Corporation for National Service announced its commitment to place Americorps VISTAs in Maker movement organizations across the country. Maker Ed is placing those Maker VISTAs in makerspaces to help build their capacity for engaging low-income students as makers. In this spirit, we are starting to see more and more makerspaces springing up in schools across the country. If you are a teacher experimenting with making projects in your classroom, here are some successful fundraising strategies we've seen educators use to fund a makerspace for their school community.
It's an exciting, creative time in our country. Running in lockstep with the technology boom is the maker movement, a whole legion of people interested in making and designing things themselves. There are builders, designers, tinkerers and do-it-yourselfers sharing their inventions, crafts and designs with a wider audience than ever before. Their work is accessible via websites, online magazines, hacker workspaces and maker fairs. This movement seems to be tapping into an unmet need that the technology world cannot satisfy on its own.
Ahhh, August -- the dog days of summer. Before the back-to-school frenzy. I hope that you, your family and students everywhere have enjoyed some unstructured time, some time outdoors, and some time getting your hands and feet dirty at the beach, the park, your backyard, or your front stoop or sidewalk. While you are -- hopefully -- in this relaxed state of mind, I want to plant a few ideas to change your perspective and practices as you head back to school this year. These are ideas for bringing the outdoors, healthy living and stewardship into your school and community.
When I was introduced to the term "social-emotional learning" and began to understand its meaning, I recognized it as a ray of hope. Hope for my community, which, seemingly unbeknownst to me, had changed dramatically over the years.
For the past five years I have collaborated with a playwright who works with my students as they write original plays. Each year, on the first day that she has been in the room with us, Kate and I stage a conflict about what should come next in the lesson. As students squirm uncomfortably in their seats and turn to each other with unbelieving eyes, Kate and I debate what makes the most sense to do next. The goal of the staged conflict is getting students to think about the crucial role of conflict in drama and playwriting. We use our brief skit as a way to open up a larger conversation about the power of theater and the different elements of a play.
As summer reflections on the past school year turn into aspirations for the next year, it's important to keep in mind the big picture of change in education. Five shifts in how we think about schools and education in general will help to regenerate the learning ecosystem, and will provoke our imagination about new possibilities for teaching and learning.
We have been covering the video series called A Year at Mission Hill since it was released in January. You can see earlier episodes in the left column of this page. The eighth episode, called "The World of Work" is a particularly compelling one, in that it showcases how Mission Hill teachers engage their middle and elementary students in their community through the lens of work.