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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Taking the Lead at Lunch: What If the Teachers Mixed It Up?

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

I still remember the first time I saw the materials from Teaching Tolerance, the magazine by the organization of the same name. This group seeks to promote tolerance, and it offers free, high-quality curricular materials for all grade levels.

I found it all so wonderfully positive and teacher friendly. Not only were the ideas right but the organization had also enveloped them in completely replicable content; anyone could use this content to improve the level of respect in the classroom community. And respect, or a lack of it, can cause a classroom community to flourish or to fail.

The organization describes itself this way on its Web site: "Founded in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations, and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation's children." Now, what teacher would not like some help in improving those "intergroup relations," either in their classroom or in their school?

So, I was stacking wood in the shed at my home in Maine last week, and in the spirit of integrating ideas such as preparing for winter and improving education, I got to thinking about integrated curriculum. It is so important for all of us to help kids cross the curricular boundaries and increase their depth of understanding of the complex issues they will face as they move on through postsecondary education and into the future.

And because teacher behavior drives student behavior in the classroom, it hit me: What if we applied Teaching Tolerance's Mix It Up at Lunch Day model (in which students move to new seats during lunch to meet different kids) in the teachers' room? And what if it went beyond just sitting together at lunch? What if those teachers were willing to look at the other teachers' subject areas and mix them up with theirs?

What if history teachers asked their math colleagues to help students more effectively analyze demographic information? What if science educators sat with art instructors and discussed how students could use various artistic media to create two- and three-dimensional artwork that would stand as clear evidence of their understanding? For this to happen, of course, the art instructors would need to better understand science, and the science educators would need to become familiar with what students can accomplish in the art room.

So, let me ask you a couple of things: Have you used materials from Teaching Tolerance with kids? Have you used its Mix It Up curriculum materials, and have you held a Mix It Up at Lunch Day? Please share your impressions and your results.

And, what's even more important, after looking at the materials for Mix It Up, would you be willing to mix it up with your colleagues at different grade levels or in different curriculum areas?

In the end, the big question is, do you think it would make a difference for kids?

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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Comments (5)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Carolyn Stambaugh's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We have been Bringing Down the Walls (the middle school, high school name for Mix it UP) for several years. The first year, we had to Mix it up at a faculty meeting. Oh! the groans and grousing that went on. This is truly a worthwhile endeavor, we certainly should bring down the walls WITH our students. Thanks for reminding me it is not just students who need to "bring down the walls"!

Olga LaPlante's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It's certainly quite a feature of education in many cases - to bring students into the society by separating them from it - huh? How does that make any sense? It takes some time though to discover it and life is no doubt a journey. When I was teaching, it didn't occur to me to build a community with my students. Now I want to do it and want to see others do it too. Now that my son is in a public school, I want his teacher to sit down and have her lunch with her students at the same table. And teachers need to foster community and camaraderie among themselves too. Being a part of the team makes us better employees (if not better persons). I feel very strongly that administration (and the union, where available) should work very hard to create a comminuty in the school. Then students will not be led by the blind...

Mary Rowland's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We had a mix it up day at our high school last year. Although everyone, teacher and students, were apprehensive at first the progam worked well. Some students shared positive feedback about the experience. I regret that I did not participate. I do think it was a worthwhile experience and would like to see it continued this year.

Lynn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think that the concept for mix it up is wonderful. It really does teach tolerance and improves the social skills of the students. This has been something I have brought up to my colleagues and they agree as well that this could be something beneficial for the school!

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