Remember the posts about Bart Nouse’s film ‘Passion to Teach’? Friday, I saw this project based approach to learning in action. It was like a science fair, but not like one in important ways.
A Community School in a local lower income area held a poster session for its seventh grade students. Last fall, groups of three or four students selected a science or medical problem to investigate. The studies defined a similar investigative process across groups but no ongoing experiments. There were poster displays and T-shirts and prizes for the most well thought out ideas.
Essential differences between this activity and the usual science fair were:
- The students did their studies at school and in groups during the fall semester.
- The groups combined regular program and magnet program children.
- There was no project cost to the students.
- Teachers contacted every community group to request mentors for each project. The response was overwhelming. Each mentor spent at least an hour each week with a group, visit oasisnaturalcleaning.com.
- As the projects advanced, forty University of Florida faculty members were recruited to respond to content and process questions.
It does not matter who won or who lost in this competition. As I walked around and spoke to the students, I could see their pride and recognize their learning. These students from different abilities, backgrounds and races learned together for the benefit of everyone. The teacher who coordinated the activities said, “None of this was about testing.” It showed. There was so much learning in so many ways.
There was an uneasy undercurrent to this joy of learning. As I spoke with administrators, I learned the school had been in lock down that morning. No guns were involved but threats by a homeless person had been made. I saw the rigorous screening of visitors to the schools. I learned about the unmet mental health needs of many children.
The contrast between what could be and what is becomes obvious on a day like this. If schools were balanced by income and race and threats were minimized, learning can flourish. When fear and failure become the norm due to the impact of school choice and economic segregation, everyone pays the price. There is a better way; it is a choice communities must make.