Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
5 Reasons to Integrate Current Events into your Curriculum
High school current events in the classroom, or at any age and in any place for that matter, are not only essential for 21st century learners, but they bring an important component of experiential learning to life.
Applying current events to your learning curriculum adds real-world context to learning, making the experiences deeper and more meaningful to students.
Ok, so you're not a social studies teacher. Current events don't apply to you or what you're doing with your students. Or do they? You don't have to be a social studies teacher to fuse current events into your curriculum. All subjects can incorporate current affairs into the curriculum.
I'm a life-science teacher, and I add science news to my high school science classes everyday. All teachers can and should include current events to some degree in their learning day, and this is why:
1) Include current events in your curriculum, and 21st century content will follow:
It is important as teachers that we stay up-to-date and relevant for our students. The world is changing, and it's changing quickly.
If we want our students to have a shot at a decent life in the 21st-century we have to prepare them for the 21st-century. Part of helping them prepare for that world is giving them ample opportunity to know what's going on in it.
Raise your hand if you've had a teacher that has clearly been delivering the same lesson for 30 years. You know the one. Don't let that be you. Our students deserve better, and using current events to drive better and more meaningful lesson is a great way to do that.
2) Awareness of local and global issues helps students build the 21st-Century Skills:
A deeper understanding of current topics in the world expands your students' world view. This alone helps student develop essential competencies for a happy, healthy, and productive future.
Insight on what's happening in the world engenders empathy and compassion. It fosters responsible and active citizenship, a curiosity about the world outside of oneself, and an educated viewpoint. Education is a catalyst for change in the world. Student can and should be a part of that.
Take a look at my blog series on building the 21st century skills for more information on this topic.
3) Incorporating current events is low-prep:
What educator doesn't want low-prep? We can be great, caring educators and still want to be smart with our time. The content is already there when it comes to current events.
All you need is a general idea of how you want to implement the experience, what structure you'll apply, when and how often you'll work current events into your classes, and what resources you'll utilize. My students love our local newspaper, Vice News (high school students), and National Geographic (I'm a science teacher). Podcasts are also great current events resources for 21st century learners.
4) Current, relevant pedagogy nurtures intrinsic motivation to learn:
It shouldn't be surprising to any educator that students learn more when they can connect with the material. The material should be relevant, compelling, and important to the students. Providing opportunities for student choice is a bonus.
News is interesting, especially if you're hitting up the best resources. You know your audience. Try a few different approaches with your students to see what works.
If you're an art teacher, for example, try assigning a project on "art and activism." Students explore current events on issues that matter to them personally, and then create artwork to raise awareness and make change in the world. Browse my blog post library on community action projects to get started with these learning experiences.
5) Current events are interesting!
So many teachers argue that it is not their job to make learning fun. But fun is a GOOD thing in my opinion. I understand where that sentiment comes from. It is frustrating to be required to get standards in and rush through content all while being pressured to keep kids interested and engaged in the topic.
But that is the beauty of current events and even more, current events that are along the learners' personal interests. Kids can have fun, be engaged in learning, have an intrinsic motivation to learn, understand the content, build skills such as problem-solving and empathy, and become lifelong learners simply by making learning relevant with the use of current events.
Current Events Resources for all Subjects:
1.Project-Based Learning - Current Events:
This resource is a project based learning lesson plan designed for self-directed learners. Each student chooses a current event and explores that event using a self-directed project based learning approach.
This is a good PBL project for a variety of subjects because it's a generic template. If you would like your students to focus on a specific discipline, ask that their current event for this project relate to that concept.
I highly recommend grabbing my free project based learning sample planner and free digital PBL assessment portfolio that students can use together to plan PBL experiences and organize outcomes.
2.Community Action Projects:
My community action projects are self-directed project based learning experiences developed around issues of personal interest to every student. I like this one because it gives students an opportunity to act on a local or global issue meaningful to them.
If you're an environmental science teacher, ask your students to focus their action plans on an environmental issue that's hot in the news. If you're a health instructor, ask that students act on a community health issue, and so on. This project gives student choice and provides opportunity to build all of the 21st-century skills mentioned above.
Almost all of my resources by nature, because they foster experiential learning, are make learning relevant through real-world learning experiences. Browse some of my other experiential learning activities here. You can also get a taste and a start on experiential learning with my free resource library.
There are a variety of other resources on the topic and the importance of teaching with current events, including webinars on implementation.
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Did you know there is an experiential learning Facebook group? Check that out - Experiential Learning Community for K12 Teachers - and join in the discussion about experiential learning.
Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
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.