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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Ready, Aim, Foxfire: A Unique Approach to Learning

Students learn about their community and local culture through hands-on projects.
By Edutopia Staff

Isaac Dickson Elementary School in Asheville, North Carolina, is the only elementary school in the nation with an entire teaching staff trained in the Foxfire approach to instruction. Under the Foxfire approach, which evolved from student-produced magazines and books about Southern Appalachian folklife, teachers develop curriculum that draws on the unique resources of their communities.

Teachers and students agree on projects that give students a hands-on way to learn the curriculum and lead to a product that shows they have learned the material.

To study weather, for example, students constructed rain gauges and weathervanes, which they used to keep detailed records of local weather patterns. While students work on projects, teachers spend much of their time carefully observing, assessing each child's progress, and devising ways to make sure each student's instructional needs are met. This approach to instruction requires teachers to be creative, eager to learn new things, and willing to constantly hone their teaching skills.

Dickson's teachers use a regional network of Foxfire educators for much of their professional development. Members of this professional network exchange ideas, information, and resources, and visit each other's schools and classrooms. Weekly faculty meetings serve the same purposes within the school. Dickson teachers say that the entire staff's participation in Foxfire has helped them develop into a cohesive unit with a common focus and direction.

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