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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

The world is full of heroes.

Some of our heroes are people that exemplify qualities such as ingenuity, flexibility, agility, determination, or reliability. For example, we are impressed by the extraordinary speed and strength of basketball player Lebron James, or the extraordinary agility and accuracy of soccer player Lionel Messi. We are awestruck by the perceptiveness and intelligence of scientist Marie Curie. We admire the bravery of Rosa Parks or Amelia Earhart. We note the selflessness of Mother Theresa. These people all possess transcendent human qualities that we also possess. The difference, often, is that we hold the same qualities to a lesser degree. Sometimes the people we consider “heroes” are those that demonstrate in large measure qualities that we feel we lack.

But humans are not our only heroes. We also emotionally connect with institutions (the United Nations) or concepts (democracy) that exemplify values we believe in: justice, equality, freedom. We may admire the incredible abilities of different animal species as well. So by “hero” I am not refering to a testosterone-driven male figure but, rather, someone or something exemplifying an extraordinary human quality.

The curriculum is also full of heroes; every topic of the curriculum can be seen as heroic in some way.

You’ve probably noticed that many young people associate with heroes or idols. It is not unusual to see pictures of a rock star, artist, or actor plastered into lockers or onto bedroom walls. Our students can become quite fanatical about learning all there is to know about some athlete, actor, author, songwriter, or world leader. If our students are associating with heroes constantly in the world around them, shouldn’t we pay attention to this imaginative activity? Imaginative educators do; they bring out the heroic in the curriculum topics they teach.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


As the students were working on their bell ringer today (recalling radioactive decay equations), I stood in the middle of class and read the following to them:

He was the only person making his way into the city; he met hundreds and hundreds who were fleeing, and every one of them seemed to be hurt in some way. The eyebrows of some were burned off and skin hung from their faces and hands. Others, because of pain, held their arms up as if carrying something in both hands. Some were vomiting as they walked. Many were naked or in shreds of clothing. On some undressed bodies, the burns had made patterns—of undershirt straps and suspenders and, on the skin of some women (since white repelled the heat from the bomb and dark clothes absorbed it and conducted it to the skin), the shapes of flowers they had had on their kimonos. Many, although injured themselves, supported relatives who were worse off. Almost all had their heads bowed, looked straight ahead, were silent, and showed no expression whatsoever. - "Hiroshima" by John Hersey

Then, I showed them haunting imprints of people killed by the blast...

This was my prelude to starting the discussion on nuclear fission and fusion in chemistry today. And, while the images students undoubtedly saw in their minds upon hearing the above story were gruesome, my purpose was clear. I wanted to evoke strong emotions.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Everyone loves a puzzle.

Imaginative educators pull their students in; they intrigue them. They puzzle them. Of course, leaving students puzzling doesn’t mean leaving them utterly confused. By "puzzling" I mean capturing students’ curiosity. Mystery intrigues us; it evokes emotion and imagination. An imaginative educator will model how learning about the world requires an inquiring spirit and a willingness to explore unfamiliar terrain. 


Dr. Kieran Egan suggests that one of the worst (aka:  imagination-dulling) things we can do in schools is present the curriculum topics we are teaching as fully “known”. (e.g. “Look students! Here is all you need to know about cell biology!” or “Here is Algebra—learn this and you know it all!”) Rather, we should present the world—and all our curriculum topics—as part of a great mystery and adventure.  We should identify the unknown. The sense of mystery–like other cognitive tools described in our Tools of Imagination Series–is a powerful support for learning.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

social media

My kids think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. I grew up without a cell phone. So, when I was away from home, I either didn't talk to anyone who wasn't with me (gasp) or I brought a quarter and used a pay phone. (What's that?) My first computer was practically the size of a smart car. I looked things up in books called encyclopaedias. I couldn't take a virtual tour of the MoMA from my sofa.  I could go on and on.  Life—such a cliché—was very different.

Nowadays, alerts, alarms, beeps, bleeps, tweets, nudges, and notifications are a part of life; they are our “normal”. Information travels at warp speed in a highly technological world—and we are constantly being notified about it. We live in a world of seemingly endless distractions. Those people who function best in this media mad world are those that live in a perpetual state of multi-tasking.

Here's the rub: nothing comes without a cost. It seems to me that our kids are missing out on important aspects of being and knowing if we do not explicitly balance out technological and cyber ways of learning with direct, body-based, and sensory types of learning experiences.

I wonder…

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


“Small shifts in your thinking, and small changes in your energy, can lead to massive alterations of your end result.”
― Kevin Michel


No More Lectures. Down With Lectures! Never Again Will I Lecture.

And I encourage you to do the same.

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