I have only been out of the classroom for a little over a year. Not long ago I started this blog and was quickly blown away by how much I seem to have missed in only one year out of the education scene. I questioned if I had been completely aloof for a decade, or if educational trends have just emerged that rapidly. I'd like to go with the latter, as my entire educational career has been in a progressive learning environment. It was literally my job to keep up with what was working for students a what wasn't, and to adjust my practice in response.
I have spent the last four months completely immersed in education. I have read dozens of books and hundreds of articles on education. I have participated in professional development courses and conferences. I have been completely in over my head, drowning to be blunt, in social media as it relates to education. Pinterest is littered with the trendiest of trends when it comes to learning, and everything else for that matter. The list of top educational trends of 2018 listed below was created strictly out of observation and experience. I have not run any fancy analytics programs or produced any actual data. So do with that what you will. You can take is as a grain of salt, or you can see for yourself.
Many of these trends aren't new. We implemented several of the trends listed here with full force where I taught (others I have never heard of until recently). They have made such a strong presence in the educational scene within the last couple of years because we know they work for 21st century students. So many of these emerging trends are based on the rapidly evolving world we find ourselves in. What used to make sense or what we used to do just doesn’t make sense anymore. With the world changing as quickly as it is, we are forced to really consider these ideas. Social media and other forms of technology have completely altered the way we communicate and learn. Notice patterns as you read the list. A few themes that I have identified include: student-centered learning; hands-on learning; inquiry-based learning; connecting content with the real-world; student choice and voice; technology and innovation. The overarching theme is a student-centered model necessary to develop the skills needed in the 21st century. Therefore, I don't see these trends going anywhere.
Up until now there has been a lot of buzz and a lot of talk about these concepts. Turn these trends into practice in your classroom if you haven't already. If you've just been playing around with these ideas with your students here and there, try to start implementing it as if it's the norm, because these trends are likely here to stay. There is a reason they are trending. Go with that!
Top 20 Educational Trends of 2018
1) Social-Emotional Learning -
"Social emotional skills" is a buzz phrase in education now because those are the skills students need in the workforce today more than content. Content information they can find in seconds anytime, anywhere.
2) STEM/STEAM -
Stem and steam are hot right now. No pun intended! Both strengthen many 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and more.
3) Maker Education -
Maker education is a new one for me. I have used "maker" principles with my students without realizing that what I was doing had a name. Students identify a problem and then make something as a solution to the problem. There are a lot of free webinars on edweb.net on maker education. I highly encourage checking those out.
4) Differentiated Learning -
Differentiated learning is providing variety to fit student's individual needs. A lot of teachers are using strategies like "choice time" and "task cards" to provide a differentiated learning environment. Direct-instruction or passive learning can still dominate a differentiated learning environment, however. As an experiential learning educator that is not preferred in my opinion. Check out "personalized learning" below to see another option for meeting student's unique needs.
5) Flexible Seating -
Flexible seating is having a variety of seating options in any given learning environment. It might mean couches or bean bag chairs in a reading corner. A high-top table with stools for projects or activities that require sudden movement, a large community table for cooperative learning activities, etc.
6) College and Career Readiness -
Having a 4.0 GPA just doesn't cut it anymore as far as college and career readiness is concerned. There are competencies students must have to survive and thrive in the 21st century workforce. Just because a student got straight A's doesn't mean they are ready for what comes after graduation.
7) Blended Learning -
From my understanding, blended learning is a combination of classic schooling with online learning. I'm realizing, however, that it's not that simple. I think people that practice true blended learning have a precise understanding of a much more complex picture than just a mix of tech and teacher. I think there is a little personalized learning thrown in there as well, among other principles that are still a bit of an enigma to me. I'd like to learn more about blended learning. If there is anyone reading this that has significant experience with blended learning, please private message me. It would be wonderful to have you guest post about it on this blog.
8) 21st Century Skills -
This one is highly interconnected to the others. The other trends listed here provide learning opportunities to develop the essential skills needed in the 21st century.
9) Project-Based Learning -
My pride and joy. My entire career has been dedicated to project-based learning. Check out some other blog posts I've done on PBL.
10) Genius Hour/Passion Projects -
I hear these two words constantly. They possess the same elements as project-based learning, but are brief, temporary assignments in passing, as supplements to curriculum. Authentic project-based learning is more substantial or tends to be the curriculum itself. For those that assign passion projects in class and have genius hours, is that statement true? I have heard about teachers creating entire courses on passion projects. To me that's the same as project-based learning. Feel free to correct me if that's offbase.
11) Brain-Based Learning -
The point of brain-based learning is to teach or provide a learning environment that takes the brain and how it works into consideration.
12) Trauma Informed Practices -
This is really interesting to me, but I don't know very much about it unfortunately. I worked with high-risk students for almost ten years. Every one of them had experienced one trauma or another. If you're interested in this, ACES is a great place to start. Other than that, I have little to offer. Because of that, I will be having a school counselor guest post about this in the near future. Stay-tuned!
13) Alternative Grading Systems -
This concept is simple. Some schools are starting to move away from strict A-F grading systems. Many combine letter grades with portfolios. Others have eliminated grades all together and complete narratives for each student instead. The purpose is to reduce academic related stressors.
14) Personalized Learning -
As compared with "differentiated instruction" listed above, personalized learning doesn't stop at arranging your classroom or modifying lessons to fit various needs and skill levels. Differentiated learning is great if it's your only option. Personalized learning on the other hand addresses student needs and skill levels in addition to backgrounds, homelife, learning styles, intelligences, and most importantly in my opinion, interests. Students direct their own learning in a personalized learning environment. Lessons aren't modified by the teacher. Students are designing their own educational journey with teachers there to facilitate. I'll do a blog post on this concept in the future.
15) Problem-Based Learning -
PrBL is a cool tool that I wish I was much better at. Rather than students receiving a lecture with numbers and stats on a real-world issue, students learn about said real-world issue by making their own observations, asking questions, exploring the issue, brainstorming solutions and acting on those solutions.
16) Gamification -
I'm going to be completely honest. I know nothing about this. But it's a serious buzzword floating around out there. It does make sense to incorporate gaming into schools. I say that only because technology is here and it's here to stay. These games are only getting better and better. My reservation about it is the hold it has on students - the addictive nature of it. I'm sure there is someone out there to defend both angles. I don't know. What do you think?
17) Lifelong Learning -
Lifelong learning encompasses all of the trends listed here in one. It is having the tools to learn long after "schooling" is over.
18) Growth Mindset -
There is a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. A growth mindset acknowledges that skills can come through hard work and determination, vs. fixed mindset which is the opposite. Promoting and encouraging a growth mindset with students is a major trend right now.
19) Self-Assessments -
This is when students take an active role in a learning outcome. Students grow by periodically self-assessing. They learn how to fail, pick themselves back up, go back to the drawing board, modify and try again. To take it a step further, students can even create their own assessments. I have my students create their own project rubrics. That rubric template is available in my TpT store. Check it out here - Student-Generated Project Rubric.
20) Authentic Presentations -
Finally, my favorite part! I am a huge advocate for project-based learning, and an authentic presentation is an important component to PBL. An authentic presentation is one where students share their work and their acquired knowledge with an authentic audience, one that is relevant and public. There are so many advantages to doing authentic presentations. I wrote a blog article on this concept a while ago. Feel free to check it out for more information - How to Incorporate Authentic Presentations into your Curriculum.
None of these trends are used independently from the others. They are all interconnected. Just because you're focusing on lifelong learning doesn't mean you should put social-emotional learning or college and career readiness on the backburner, for example. They all share common themes. They all consider the needs of 21st century learners.
For resources on many of these trends, as most of them fall under "experiential learning", feel free to check out my TpT store. As of right now project-based learning dominates the store. But with project-based learning comes authentic presentations, lifelong learning, gamification if you wish, self-assessments, personalized learning, and more from the list of trends above. This is the last day of a winter sale on my high school PBL bundle and "how to" guide. Check out Experiential Learning Depot to get to this resource and others. I'm working on some maker and stem resources and will have those posted soon.
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Happy New Year, Everyone!
My Story: Becoming an Experiential Educator
I almost dropped out of teaching school. I don't like to say that because I'm not a quitter. I never have been, but it's the honest truth. I wondered if I could have a full time career doing something that just wasn't sitting right with me. My own experience was telling me that learning comes from direct involvement, but I wasn't observing that in practice. Here's my story:
I got my undergraduate degree in biology and proceeded to work with environmental protection programs for three years following graduation. Education wasn't even remotely on my mind. It didn't even occur to me. I didn't grow up in a family of educators. I was at a selfish time in my life when I didn't care much for kids to be honest. I was still a kid myself.
Working in the field was amazing for so many reasons. I met wonderful people, saw places I wouldn't have otherwise seen, and gained practical experience for a career in environmental science. I learned more about science in three months in the field, immersed in the content, than I did over the course of my lifetime. Content that I studied in college paired with active involvement in the field was a powerful learning experience for me.
Several years of working in the field was exhausting, however. I was constantly getting hurt. I literally had a handful of near death experiences, one of which was rolling an ATV down a mountain with me inside, another getting chased down by a nesting female alligator. I'll save the details of those stories for another day. I felt like my personal life was a revolving door. I would become close to my coworkers like family and then we would go our separate ways six months later. All of the jobs were temporary assignments. I was exhausted, hurt, emotionally and physically broken, and I was lonely. I decided enough was enough. It was time to go home.
I went back to Minnesota where I was raised and still had family. I applied to get my teaching license at the University of Minnesota, was accepted, and started the program within days of returning home. The program itself was great, but things went downhill when I started my high school student teaching experience.
I was torn. What I was learning in my teaching program was starkly different than what I was observing as a student teacher. My teaching program trained us to take a student-centered approach. We spent almost the entire year practicing inquiry-based learning strategies, which I thought was amazing at the time, and still do. Then I would go student teach under the supervision of an instructor that was very teacher-centered. Many classes that I observed were of her writing notes onto an old-school overhead projector, using a note-taking template that was photocopied out of a textbook. The students sat in their seats for 40 minutes copying her notes verbatim.
I don't believe this to be the fault of my cooperating teacher. She was doing what she felt she needed to do to fit in all of the standards, meet testing requirements, stay under budget, and "educate" the 180 total students that walked into her classroom each day. We would talk occasionally about how she felt a little stifled and restricted, especially when it came to experiential learning activities such as field trips. The logistical nightmare it was to transport 180 students to the science museum, for example, limited learning beyond the walls of the classroom. She was a seasoned teacher and she was intelligent. I have to believe that she felt there was no other option. I felt it too when I started doing the teaching myself.
I knew I couldn't operate that way for the rest of my career. My experience working in the field was always in the forefront of my mind when trying to work out my educational philosophy, along with the "student-centered" theory I was learning in teaching school. I knew as a student myself, that a strictly teacher-centered, lecture-based philosophy would not be effective, especially with 21st century students. We don't have the need for notetaking of that kind or rote memorization anymore. At one time that was more important, as access to information hasn't always been what it is today. The information is at our fingertips quite literally. What the students need, I thought, is to learn how to learn, as I did in the field - how to problem solve, think critically, navigate sources of information, question current lines of thinking and adjust thinking based on new input and experience.
I decided I needed to check into some things. What other options did I have? A lot of options it turned out. Not only were there a lot of schools and educational organizations doing things differently, but teachers in traditional classrooms were mavericks as well, trying to promote active and involved learning experiences while under the same restrictions as the rest of us. Those educators that went above and beyond, that were creative and reflective, that tried new educational approaches that were supported by research despite restrictions and obstacles, turned out to be my inspiration and mentors over the course of the next decade.
As I was researching my options, I came across a website for an experiential learning school in St. Paul. I didn't see that they were hiring, but I decided to connect anyway. I called them up, asked if they were hiring, and I started teaching there a few months later. I taught there for nine years thanks to the staff, students and school philosophy.
The students in these pictures are engaged, observing, problem-solving, creating. Of course it wasn't perfect all of the time. But I watched the impact that experiential, student-directed learning had on my students, the same impact experiential learning had on me when I was working in the field. I started writing this blog a few months ago, and in that short time have discovered through research and networking, the abundance of experiential learning going on out there right now. I'm floored by the speed and force by which project-based learning, inquiry, problem-based learning, student travel programs, maker education, stem, and other forms of experiential learning are appearing on the educational scene.
The dramatic emergence of these experiential learning approaches is because we know from experience and research that they're effective learning tools. If you hop on a search engine to find educational quotes, none of them will be about the profound greatness of direct-instruction.
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more on experiential education. You can also check out my store on TpT for experiential learning resources.
Happy Winter Break from Experiential Learning Depot
Hello fellow educators, parents, students, and Experiential Learning Depot supporters. I just wanted to let you know that I will be taking a brief hiatus from this blog to spend badly needed time with my family during the holidays. Feel free to catch up on past blog posts, which is what I know you want to be doing during your time off! You can also check out experiential learning curriculum on my TpT site, Experiential Learning Depot. Get yourself set up for the rest of the year with my PBL bundle, which is on sale until the New Year.
I will leave you with this quote from one of my personal heroes. Have a wonderful winter break (if you get one) and a very happy New Year!
I talk about experiential learning a lot in my life. It's in the name of my blog and my TpT store, Experiential Learning Depot. I consider "experiential educator" to be my job title and path of focus. "Experiential learning" is strongly built into my daily lexicon and philosophy of education. I find people asking me on a regular basis to explain what I do as an experiential educator. A lot of people come wanting to know more about experiential learning and how they can work it into their curriculum. The good news is that it's a great learning tool for people of all backgrounds, learning styles, skill levels, and interests, and it's fairly easy to implement if you know the essential components. There isn't really any bad news other than there are some misunderstandings floating around about what it is and who can benefit from it.
Based on Instagram alone, I have noticed that experiential learning is often associated with outdoor education. The Instagram hashtag, #experientiallearning, is loaded with photos of students hiking, traveling, and getting their hands dirty. This can be experiential learning, but isn't always, and outdoor education is certainly not the only form of experiential learning. So let's iron out what it is exactly and how you can utilize it with your students.
In short experiential learning is learning through experience. It's getting actively involved in learning. Hands-on activities aren't necessarily experiential learning activities, however. There are specific elements that make is different. Project-based learning can be experiential, as can inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, community learning, service learning, and simple hands-on activities, just as long as the following characteristics of experiential learning are utilized:
What is Experiential Learning?
1. Students are actively involved -
Students should be actively, not passively, learning through the learning experience at hand. What experiential learning IS NOT is lecture-based. Students should be involved.
2. Students have the freedom and support to make mistakes, and outright fail at times -
Part of learning through experience is gaining skills and knowledge throughout the entire process, not just from the outcome or final grade. Allowing students to feel they can fail, revise, and try again takes off some pressure and encourages an attitude of willingness to improve. This is an important competency to have in life-long learners.
3. The experience is personalized -
An activity is experiential when it's meaningful to each individual student. The activity should meet the diverse need, backgrounds, interests, goals, learning styles, and skill levels of each student.
4. Students see a connection between the content and the real world -
Connecting an activity with real-world context helps students find meaning and purpose in what they're doing. The brain needs real-life connections to retain information.
5. Students can see purpose in the activity -
Students should know why they're doing what they're doing. If students see their final score as the sole purpose of the activity then something is missing. With purpose comes an intrinsic motivation to learn.
6. Student-directed -
Student's should have control and investment in their learning. Any experiential learning activity should be student-driven or at a minimum, student-centered.
7. Reflection -
Reflection is a big one. I believe that reflection should be a key component to any instructional approach, not just experiential learning. Students should have ample opportunity to look back at their successes and failures (which there will be in experiential learning). They should analyze their work, not just the final outcome, but the entire learning process. It encourages acceptance of constructive feedback and continuous self-improvement through life.
Bonus: use the community as a resource -
Community outreach is a huge plus when it comes to experiential learning. It might mean bringing students out of the classroom to utilize a community resource, or bring community resources into your classroom. You could bring community experts in as speakers, helpers, or teachers. Utilizing community experts in an important part of project-based learning, but I think it enhances ANY learning experience and shouldn't be limited to PBL.
Now, here is an example. I am technically a biology teacher. I teach the basics of neurology, and when I do, I invite someone from the University of Minnesota neurology department to come in to talk about their research. In the past they have brought with them an actual human brain, a resource I am personally unable to get my hands on. That is a valuable resource that brings out some of the elements of experiential learning listed above.
Now take a hands-on activity that you like to do with your students. Do the above elements fit in with the experience? If they don't it's not exactly experiential learning, and you may not be getting the outcome or understanding of the content that you're hoping for. For example, you might have your students doing a lab in chemistry. It's hands-on learning. It's not a worksheet, so that's experiential learning right? Not necessarily. If it's a prescribed recipe then students are missing the personalized learning component. The experience isn't student-directed. It may not connect with the students' reality or the real-world. It is not active learning, it's passive. Just because it's hands-on does not make it experiential. Go through the checklist with a favorite activity to see if it's experiential. If it's not, consider modifying the lesson to make it experiential. The outcome is a student that has a lifelong passion for learning and actually understands and absorbs the content.
For experiential learning resources check out my TpT store Experiential Learning Depot.
I like the article below on experiential learning. It's a long one, but it would act as a great manual for educators new to experiential learning. I also give it credit for helping me out with this blog post. "Best Practices in Experiential Learning" - prepared by Michelle Schwartz
Happy holidays everyone, and a great final week before break if you're still working!
Students can relate to the characters, it’s a true story, the content is riveting, each episode ends with a cliffhanger, and my students love to play detective. That is why I continue to use "serial" in my classroom.
Is the Serial podcast old news? It’s not in the classroom!
I am obsessed with the Serial podcast! Well, I’m only obsessed with the first season, which I have listened to 8 times now. Not because it’s that good (it is), but because soon after I heard it for the first time, I began listening to it with my advisory group.
The premise of Serial season 1, is that a teenage girl, Hae Min Lee, from Maryland, was murdered in the ’90s. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan, was convicted of the crime on one individual’s testimony. Adnan has been in jail ever since with no actual physical evidence to prove him guilty. He interviews for this podcast from prison.
Why I Teach "Serial" to my High School Students:
1. Relevant to Students:
My students live parallel lives to the kids in this podcast. They can relate to the characters, the setting, and the general circumstances. All of my students have a friend just like Jay, one of the important characters, or have parents that are overbearing like Adnan’s. They have all had to defend themselves when accused of something, whether they did it or not. I experienced that often as a teenager. We all know the feeling. These connections make the listening experience meaningful for students. Serial season 1 is now several years old. It’s certainly old news. Yet it still works. It is still relevant to my students, therefore, they are intrinsically motivated to learn.
2. Students Gain Skills and Knowledge:
"Serial" is also an awesome way to build listening skills, critical thinking skills, organizational skills, note-taking techniques, and more, without the students even realizing they are building those competencies. My students develop theories that could only be conjured up by the mind of a teenager.
3. Builds Classroom Community:
I like to incorporate the Serial podcast in my advisory specifically because it bonds my students. They develop a deeper connection by understanding something that others may not get, like a secret language. They talk about the characters outside of class, they have constructive debates on who they think committed the crime and why. I’ve had students go above and beyond by investigating people or events online and enthusiastically bragging about their discoveries in class the next day.
4. Student-Directed Learning (and low prep):
The beauty of using this podcast in your class is that it teaches itself, especially if you allow the experience to be student-directed. Each class is going to be different. Different groups of students have varying reactions, roles in the group discussions, theories about this or that. Every listen is a completely new experience because the student dynamic changes group to group. The students drive the experience. What I’ve observed is that student-led ventures result in the most powerful learning experiences. Have students develop PBL projects along the way, lead class-discussion, and activities.
For those reading this that aren’t educators, listen to it anyway! If you’re a parent, try listening to the podcast together with your teenager. It will give you something to talk about! If you are a student yourself, ask a teacher if they would consider playing it in class. If those efforts are unsuccessful, try to take a break from the “rigors” of your everyday school life and listen on your own time. The perfect opportunity is only days away! Taking any road trips this winter break? Pop in those headphones and have a listen. Happy listening!
If you're interested in adding project-based learning to the mix, check out "Project-Based Learning: Podcasts" from Experiential Learning Depot on TpT, a teacher-guided project with a lot of student choice. You could also use the "Project-Based Learning Toolkit" that has all the templates you would need for %100 student-directed PBL experience.
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more on experiential education.
P.S. Season 3 was released a few months ago. Has anyone listened? Any insight? Let us know!
I have been traveling with students to some capacity for 10 years. I have a background in ecology and environmental science. Before I became a teacher I was working on various endangered species projects around the country. I knew from that time in the field that the deepest learning happened when I got up close and personal with my environment, not when I was reading about biology concepts in textbooks. I knew when I became an educator that I wanted to work at an experiential learning school where students directed their learning. That is how I came to be heavily involved in the travel program at Jennings Community School, where I advised at-risk teenagers, taught using project-based learning, and traveled with students for the next 9 years.
I don't believe that experiential learning applies to biology alone. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand." That is experiential learning in a nutshell, and it pertains to all disciplines. You don't have to be a science or art teacher to get your students involved and active in their learning.
Getting students beyond the walls of the classroom is an amazing first step. I know it's tough in some teaching environments to even get students in the school yard, and that's assuming there is a school yard to go to. At a minimum, get your students out of their desks and involved in the concepts. Those hands-on, inquiry activities encourage students to observe, explore, ask questions and absorb new information and skills through experience. All great things. But traveling? Traveling encompasses these important facets of learning plus a whole lot more. Traveling is an opportunity to completely change the lives of your students. I've seen it happen over and over and over again.
Traveling with students isn't easy, but the outcome is why I dedicated so much of my teaching career to providing these travel opportunities for my students. I know the impact it can make on someone's life. Student traveling isn't just hopping on a plane and sitting on a beach somewhere. The learning is in the entire experience from trip planning, to fundraising, to packing, to relationship building, goal-setting, and sharing and reflecting on the experience. Not many students get the chance to participate in something that encompasses all of these critical learning opportunities in one. There is value in traveling that cannot be gained through any other means. Traveling is a unique and special learning opportunity.
Top 6 Reasons to Start a Travel Program at your High School
1. Increase Cultural and Global Awareness:
Children, particularly teenagers, tend to be self-involved. They're not culpable. It's just the nature of their brains. Removing students from their "bubbles" and shaking up their lives a bit by pushing them beyond their comfort zones can have drastic and beautiful results. It is difficult for students to understand others and the world around them when they are not directly impacted. The teenage brain needs to connect concepts with real-life experience. When students view the world from a different angle, their worldview is altered. Literally. Traveling puts them in that environment.
2. Gain Content Knowledge:
Yes, content knowledge. I am a project-based teacher. One of the first projects I assign to students is planning a hypothetical trip around the world. I do this because of all of the skills and knowledge they gain in the experience. They learn how to budget and find deals. They learn how to read a map and plan routes. They learn about the environment, topography, culture, arts, religion, politics and more while exploring the places they hope to "visit".
When I travel with students, we travel with purpose. Because I am a biology teacher, my purpose is usually environmental in nature, but traveling naturally integrates subjects. Students that travel with me on school trips go through intense seminars and complete several projects pertinent to the designated "purpose" prior to the trip. They also work on projects while ON the trip - group and independent - relevant to the trip purpose. Upon return, each student reflects and shares their work with a public audience. The amount of content absorbed is astounding, and it's all because the concepts are right in front of them. They are involved. They are actively learning through experience.
3. Develop a Healthy Self-Concept:
I know it's cliche, but it's true, and anyone who travels knows it to be true. The phrase "I'm traveling to find myself" would generally trigger my upchuck reflex, but when it comes to children, "finding oneself" is often times a matter of life and death, quite literally, unfortunately. Teenagers deal with a lot. Getting through the teenage years in one piece requires a strong, healthy self-concept that can be acquired by traveling. By getting away from the daily pressures of life, students can ask themselves who they really are. This I've seen time and time again. A student travels on a school trip and comes back a changed person with a renewed spirit and ultimate confidence. They had the unique opportunity to learn about themselves, discover their skills, dreams, talents, and hopes through a fresh lens.
4. Develop Critical 21st Century Skills:
Content is important to a degree, but at the rate society is evolving, what's more important is having the skills to navigate those changes. Careers will look very different 20 years from now. Technology is changing everything. Traveling puts students in a position to work at those life skills. As part of the trip planning process, they exercise organization, locating credible resources, goal-setting, and managing their time. While on trips they encounter situations where they need to problem-solve, think critically, work as a team and get creative. If you've ever read my posts on "travel adventures and mishaps", you know these scenarios are inevitable. All mishaps (mostly minor) provide opportunities to build on these 21st century skills.
5. Build Lifelong Friendships:
The feeling of belonging is a basic need. It is something that many people spend a lifetime trying to attain with little luck. Feelings of loneliness are rampant in young people as well as adults. Everyone is a bit vulnerable when they are traveling. They are away from their homes, their friends, family and comfort zones. In group travel, everyone is in the same boat. My students cast aside their differences on trips and create bonds that last a lifetime because they are experiencing something new and profound together. Only they can understand what the other is feeling in that moment.
6. The Ability to Envision a Future for the First Time:
This is something that teachers that work with high-risk populations will see in their students as an outcome of travel. Having a student travel program at a school with underrepresented students is powerful because students living in poverty do not have easy access to travel experiences. It's not an option for most. Many of my students don't look further than the moment. They don't consider their future career. Many of them don't even expect to finish high school. When traveling they gain a new perspective on the future. For the first time they can look ahead and envision something. They may not know what, but for the first time they are open to the possibilities. They see opportunity for a good life.
Well, now what?
Now that you know WHY you should start a travel program at your middle or high school, what do you do with that? You want to start a travel program, but how? Stay tuned for a post from on what you need to know to start a high school travel program.
I have a lot of travel resources available in my TpT store, Experiential Learning Depot. They are all FREE. I think it's important to make student travel resources easily accessible to teachers, as it is challenging enough to implement a travel program in a secondary school. Browse my store to download free travel resources by clicking the link above.
I hope this has been useful. If you are a teacher that travels with students, I'd love you to share your stories and travel tips.
Thanks for reading. Happy Monday!
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Click here for full article: Government to Hold School Debate on Climate Change
Student Activism on Climate Change - Students Get Vocal
I came across this article this morning and haven't been able to stop thinking about it, so I'm going to write about it! I'm so inspired, and want to spread that feeling.
Over 100 schools across Uganda will convene this upcoming Monday to debate on climate change. This event was organized by the government with the intention of "inculcating patriotic values and norms in order to develop resourceful, responsible, disciplined, and resilient citizens, who are committed to protecting the country’s resources."
I know now from 9 years of experience working with teenagers that they often have the best ideas and the most unique and creative solutions. They blow me away on a regular basis. My children and my students are growing up in a very different world than I did, with unique perspectives, resources, and skills. This event in Uganda not only gives student's the chance to speak on the issue, but to proffer solutions, and to propose initiatives that can be adopted nationwide. Ideally, globally. Uganda is setting a great example for the rest of the world, which is not only to pay attention to climate change, but to utilize the ideas that come from the most underutilized minds - those of our students!
I took a course on teaching climate change with the National Museum of Natural History. It was a really great class that I highly recommend for those of you interested in teaching climate change. I'm going to get some project-based learning climate change curriculum up in my store at some point, but that'll take some time. Climate change is also not really the point of writing this post. My point is more about the ways in which students can AND should get involved in important global issues. The debate event in Uganda is a great example.
I recommend checking out my "community action project" lesson at Experiential Learning Depot. Students use the templates to create a project around any issue, climate change if you wish. They can do this by raising awareness, advocating for legislation, organizing fundraisers, donating their time, or any other creative mode of action they would like to undertake. These projects can be done independently, in small groups, or as a large group project. My students have done community action projects on climate change. Check out these examples:
Climate Change Community Action Project Ideas:
1) Create an awareness campaign - each student created a promotional video or poster that educated the public on climate change, specifically communities most heavily impacted by climate change. They then shared their work on social media.
2) Interview businesses in the community on the impacts of climate change - I traveled with students to the Big Island of Hawaii in 2017. We toured the island interviewing business owners, those in agriculture, landowners, citizens, etc., on how they saw climate change impacting their livelihoods in the future or how they might already be feeling the effects of climate change. The interviews were eye-opening. We may not have coffee in 20 years! You do not need to go to Hawaii to do this project! I live and teach in Minnesota, and according to stats, Minnesota is one of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. to the impacts of climate change.
3) Organize a drive or fundraiser for climate refugees - this could be a group project or an independent project.
4) Host a school event such as a speaker series - invite climate scientists, business owners, aid organizations, students, renewable resource companies, ecologists, and more to come speak on their perspective.
5) Finally, host a debate! It is reasonable to do this with your own class. If you're ambitious, host a state-wide event.
To see more on the trip to Hawaii and the climate change project, check out The Jennings Experience. This was a student travel blog I kept when I was teaching.
Thanks for stopping by on this Friday afternoon. Have a fantastic weekend everyone!
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10 Free Gifts to Give Your Students This Holiday Season
Children of the 21st century need so much more from educators than content delivery. We as teachers (and parents) grew up in an entirely different world than our students. Information is available to them anytime, anywhere. Memorizing facts, we know, isn't relevant to this generation, it won't be relevant to the next generation, nor the one after that.
What students need now are the "free gifts" on the list above, among other things. There are many more student-needs than what I listed on my gorgeous graphic up top, I just couldn't fit anymore on the page!
Educators are (or should be) well aware of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Basic needs must first be met for learners to reach a level of "self-actualization." Many children do not even have consistent access to their most basic needs: food, water, warmth and rest. School may be the only place they get those things. Safety, friendship and the tools to build a healthy self-concept are additional student needs. Most children struggle with these ideas, especially tweens and teens. They need us to help them navigate through this unique time in history.
What we can give our students this holiday season is support, kindness and love. We can listen when they need us to listen. We can provide our students with learning opportunities that help them develop the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. We can offer experiences that foster the discovery of skills, talents, interests and desires.
I left my job a year ago to stay home with my own children, and since then have done some serious reflecting on my career. The last few years at my job I felt bogged down by constant student behavior issues, the pressure of adhering to standards, truancy, and my own stuff going on at home. I lost patience with my students and lost-sight of their most inherent needs.
We all know teachers don't teach for the money! We teach because we love our students. You are likely already giving your students most, if not all, of the gifts on the list. If you're not, it's okay! Give yourself a break. We as teachers are up against a lot. But try to do some serious, honest self-reflection this winter break. Make changes in your classroom if you need to. Create the conditions they need to thrive. Assign projects that promote student voice and choice. Provide a plethora of input to aid students in discovering their interests and talents. Focus on your students, who they are as individuals, and what they really need from you.
Check out some of Experiential Learning Depot's projects that might be just what your classroom needs. They are all student-centered, so provide that choice, voice, autonomy and hands-on experience mentioned on the list.
Activities for Building a Strong Advisory Community
Project-Based Learning Tool Kit
Community Action Projects
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Key Components of Project-Based Learning
I'm back with more on project-based learning! Yay! Anyone tired of it yet? I will never tire of PBL because it's such a powerful learning tool. The beauty of it is that is can work for anyone, because the projects are personalized.
There are a few elements that are important to consider in project-based learning, otherwise your students are just doing projects. Projects and project-based learning are different. I've talked about this before, so I won't get into detail. What I will do is explain some of the key components of project-based learning that sets it apart from other approaches to learning.
PBL Tool Kit:
Before I do that, I want to announce a product I just released in my TpT store, called "Project-Based Learning Tool Kit." It is a package of everything you need to implement student-directed projects in your classroom. Students design and execute their projects using the templates included in the package. This is the ideal outcome for any project-based learning environment in my opinion - the ultimate student-centered classroom! The tool kit incorporates the following elements of project-based learning:
Key Elements of Project-Based Learning:
1. Innovative final product - students conduct research or gather information on a topic of their choosing. Students then assemble that information into a final product that will demonstrate learning. Students are quick to settle on a poster board or slideshow presentation because it's easy. An innovative final product moves away from the cut and paste approach and gets into deeper learning. Check out a list of final product ideas from a previous Experiential Learning Depot post - 82 PBL Final Product Options.
2. Community Experts - this is a critical component of project-based learning. The idea is that students learn about their project topic by communicating and collaborating with direct sources. Students might conduct an interview with the expert or shadow them. The community member might assist them with their project by providing materials, a working space or expertise. This element helps students build a community network, among other things.
3. Authentic Presentations - an authentic presentation is one where the final product is shared with an audience outside of the boundaries of the classroom. The purpose is to motivate quality work and make an impact on the community. One of my students did a project on grieving the loss of a parent. She created a blog as a resource for those in a familiar situation. It would have been unfortunate if she only presented that project to her classmates, as she wouldn't have met a relevant audience. In addition to presenting to the class then, this student published a blog and marketed via social media so that her blog could meet those in need of resources and support during their time of grief.
4. Self-Assessments and Consistent Feedback - I have my students self-assess periodically throughout the project process using my generic PBL rubric, or their student-generated rubric. I meet with them to go over their self-assessment, provide feedback, and allow them time to revise and improve their work. Peer and community expert evaluations are great as well.
5. Project Reflection - This piece is so important. When a student's project is complete they should always look back on the experience. The ability to reflect, adjust and improve is an important life skill.
My students use this checklist when designing their projects to make sure they've covered all their PBL bases.
Great PBL Example:
I want to give you a quick idea of project-based learning by telling you about one of my all-time favorite student projects. Keep in mind, this was a senior project. Not all projects have to be this elaborate. My student worked on this project over the course of a year. But it's a great example because it really hits on all of the reasons project-based learning is GOLD.
Forrest was interested in botany. Around this time I was taking a course on teaching biotechnology. One day we were talking about it, and he told me about an article he read on algae farms, and how it was being harvested for fuel. This is how his senior project came to be, from a simple conversation about his interests.
Forrest's final product, he decided, would be harvesting algae and processing it into biofuel. He started volunteering at the University of Minnesota greenhouse. He contacted Brett Barney from the U of M Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering. Forrest worked alongside him in his lab to gather information on how to start his own crop. Dr. Barney even GAVE Forrest algae and materials to get him started.
The Algae Biofuels Summit just happened to be taking place in Minneapolis around that time. Forrest got in touch with Advanced Biofuels USA to negotiate a deal on a ticket to the conference. They offered to donate his entrance to the conference free of charge as long as he agreed to write an article for their newsletter on his experience.
Read the rest of his article here.
The bottom line is that this student discovered an interest, asked questions, gathered information using a variety of world-class experts on the topic, created an innovative final product (harvesting and processing his own algae), and shared his work with an authentic, public audience. I don't think he even realizes today, seven years later, the immense impact this project had on his life. Only this experience could have resulted in the skills and knowledge that he gained. Completing a poster board on algae as a biofuel wouldn't have had the same impact. See what I mean?
What are some cool projects your students have done? What do they gain from the experience in addition to content knowledge? There are so many amazing ideas and cool projects going on out there. I see them everyday. Brag about yours students!
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To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.