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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in authentic learning experiences

Posted by on in Student Engagement



An important need and big challenge is making curriculum relevant to students so that they “want” to do the work because the content makes sense to them, and has meaning through their usage beyond the classroom walls. The value of such experiences cements learning as students have a real-world reference to recall the content when needed.

For example, students are more likely to remember their work on a fund raising campaign that raised awareness about cancer while soliciting donations that are given to cancer research. Such an experience is more powerful and lasting than approaching the same curriculum in the traditional format: memorizing the functions and structures of different cells, practicing research skills as an isolated skill for English, and completing a list of math functions without a real-world context. In the case of the fighting cancer campaign, the students developed understanding and application of all of those skills and content areas, while having a positive impact on their community.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood


“It’s necessary that we believe that the child is very intelligent, that the child is strong and beautiful and has very ambitious desires and requests. This is the image of the child that we need to hold. Those who have the image of the child as fragile, incomplete, weak, made of glass gain something from this belief  only for themselves. We don’t need that as an image of children. Instead of always giving children protection, we need to give them the recognition of their rights and of their strengths.” Loris Malaguzzi.

Having worked in a Reggio-inspired program for four years, I endeavor to hold this idea in my mind as I teach young children, and as I teach adults. Young children are amazingly capable. They can learn anything at their level of development and as members of a larger culture. By providing support for what they are capable of, we honor their essential natures.

Recently, I have been thinking about DAP. What does developmentally appropriate practice mean to each of us? I think that, in spite of NAEYC’s very positive and specific guidance for us as Early Childhood Educators, schools and parents who want to honor DAP have differing images of children in their minds. I see so much that is good in the practices of my adult students, and among my ECE colleagues, but also I sense that many of us still tend to see young children as individuals who need protection, nurture, and dare I say, sheltering. The image Loris Malaguzzi presents in the quote above certainly contradicts this image.

In the NAEYC literature, 12 Principles of Development and Learning, the eleventh principle, “Development and learning are advanced when children are challenged” strikes me as particularly important. From self-help skills (pouring water, and counting out crackers at snack, to pulling up their own pants, with appropriate scaffolding) to project work (planning and creating a part of a project a child sees as needed, each contribution demonstrating not only skills, but ideas as well), young children are vastly more capable than we habitually see them. Perhaps, as Malaguzzi implies, we want to see them as needing more help, so that we can fulfil our own need to nurture (full-disclosure: sometimes guilty myself!). But we do not give them our best if we do things they can do themselves. Neither should we over-protect them.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood


The best fun I’ve had recently was building a fort with my five year old grandson, Indy. We went down to the family room in his house and gathered every available couch cushion, pillow, blanket, and chair. Then, we added a couple fabric tunnels belonging to his little brother, for an entrance and exit. Inside, we had a comforter, a little lamp, and of course, some snacks.

Indy decided we should pretend his big, plastic dinosaurs were trying to climb in from the top. I went outside the fort and began lowering them down on a piece of cord, making voices for them. Indy squealed with laughter. “Do that again, Grandma! Please!” We were on about our 50th go around, when I glanced at the top of the stairs and saw his daddy standing there, watching and smiling. We exchanged something unspoken in that moment, both having been taken back in time, to a day when the two of us were in a blanket fort, in our living room… some thirty five years ago.

Later that evening, he reminded me about the tree fort he and his brothers built in the woods behind our house. They spent hours there all summer long, never seeming to miss the television or other indoor diversions.

As we reminisced about his childhood, I was reminded of my own.

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Posted by on in Tools, Shortcuts, Resources


To maintain student interest in science it is crucial to keep them involved and keep the science authentic. Let’s look at two programs that give students the opportunity to make meaningful connections with professional scientists. Both are easy to incorporate into existing curriculum or for use in a club or afterschool program.

We’ll start off by taking a close look at a great program called “Letters to a Pre-Scientist”. This program is a collaboration between teachers and scientists that aims to give students a view of science beyond what they may see in their traditional classroom setting.

Students are paired with a scientist pen-pal. Throughout the school year they receive and write letters to this scientist. “Letters to a Pre-Scientist” serves many areas where children do not have many opportunities to see what possibilities are out there in terms of higher education or careers. These personal connections can literally change their lives.

Receiving the letters is not only exciting for the students, but also gives them writing practice. The volunteer scientists hail from all over the United States and the world, which undoubtedly broadens the students’ view of the world. The program served 400 students during the 2014-2015 school year.

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Posted by on in School Culture
With 2016 being days away, I’m starting to revisit some goals that I made in the beginning of the school year. One of my goals is to be cognizant of current lingo so I’m never caught off guard in conversations. While Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary is just a click away (UD was a staple for me, as I taught middle school and was a middle school VP), it’s nice to know a sense of the word before I have to look it up.

I’ve been hearing about “swiping right” as of late. First came the “like” on Facebook, then came the Retweet on Twitter, followed by the “+1” and so many others.

In the mobile dating app Tinder, swiping right means you are interested / “like” the person that you see on your screen. While the app has been around for a couple of years, its popularity has surged, and jokes on the radio and The Tonight Show have been more common.  

I’ve also read about Tinder scenarios with teachers, supervisors, and central administration in education. I get legal briefs once a week to see what’s going on in schools statewide and nationally. And yes, most of those news briefs are rather sad. 

I refuse to let trendy items that get negative reputations in our digital lives impede on education. While I’m not going to be encouraging our students to be using a dating app, I’m always a fan of using popular sayings or something from pop culture to relate to students or staff. I have many staff in their 20’s where a teachable moment often happens by injecting a buzz word that the agegroup can relate to. It’s no different than using a current song on the radio or a meme that’s all the rage.

Back to the title – swipe right for success? It  sounds like something that the character Michael Scott would push from the TV show “The Office”. But, it’s a thought where we can build on; something we can take to relate to others in the future.

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