LETTER TO A FRIEND IN INDIA
I wanted to elaborate on what I published on November 12th about Project-based science in both India and in the USA. For years I have advocated and created curriculum initiatives in science education that move progressive education reform in a direction that will benefit students well into the future years of their lives.
Like you, I have wrestled with this issue of adapting the realities of life that challenge our students and society and the delivery of learning experiences in the classroom that positively impact our students.
In the twilight of my career as an educator, I find that opportunities for our students to engage in more profound learning experiences, that dwell upon project-based models of learning, are not in general increasing. In America with the implementation of Next Generation Science Standards, it seems to me it would be logical that this transition would favor new educational innovations that motivate and inspire learning. But this reality has been elusive.
Today, in our schools, being a Teacher facilitator, not the sage on the stage, requires a change in the mindset of the educator. It means that a teacher must stop rote dispensation of information during a school day and move toward the creation of learning opportunities stressing knowledge and understanding. It can be an exhausting venture requiring intense focus upon the timely and urgent implementation of curriculum initiatives, while at the same time coordinating lab experiences that lead to students developing real-world solutions to problems we face in the world.
The Zero Waste Zone Project at K.v.bhandup school in Mumbai India (https://www.facebook.com/KVBHANDUP/), that you have developed over the past few years, is an excellent example of the type of science project that can help stimulate students’ intrinsic motivation to learn. It is a project that provides a wealth of opportunities for student to pursue and learn concepts in science. Students come to realize their true potential as they apply knowledge and understanding to help improve society!
You need to be both fearless and driven as an educator to bring forth the best learning experience for our times. I experience a sense of urgency to design curriculums that meets the educational needs of students. Years of experience is a great asset because you can envision the reality that your want to create in the classroom. Educational reform has positive inferences because it is tied to making thinking better. As a master teacher I am sure you deal with the challenge of thinking out of the box and being unconventional. Conventional wisdom in educations stresses control over learning, but if you really believe in the kids and you worry about their future, then you will give them the needed autonomy in your classroom, so they can to excel to their fullest potential.
Engineering challenges is one of the many means that I employ in class to get to the essence of learning by having students apply what they have learned to solve problems. Challenge is expressed through redesign and improvement of prototype models. This process inspires a focused effort by students increasing their intrinsic motivation to produce and to perform. The world we live in is fraught with problems and crisis that will need creative and critical thought to bring forth solutions. In our schools, students can develop these skills and abilities becoming problem solvers and ready to adapt to a changing world with its new reality.
What projects have you most recently developed to get students motivated to learn? Masters teachers take advantage of time frames, within the curriculum, where students can apply what they have learned and produce real-world results. For our students this is a very satisfying experience adding to their self-efficacy and becoming productive members of our society. It is all good!
That is why teaching has never been a job to me it is a vocation because I believe it strives beyond the sheer process that we go through in school. It is really about the creation of a modern society. To use a baseball metaphor, I am a teacher in the batter’s box and I must hit the fast ball to move the game along. I am not looking to take a walk, I am swinging for the fences! I am going to do whatever it takes to move my students along in life.
Students complete the construction of a 9 feet tall hot air balloon that will utilize the force of buoyancy to accelerate up into the atmosphere with increasing velocity.
Teams of students collaborate utilizing individual skills and abilities to produce a final product.
The final product will be tested to determine its performance during flight.
Design and testing of a Pitsco catapult leads to greater understanding and interest in the physics of motion.
Students engaged in experimental research developing skills, abilities and understanding to solve problems, be creative and become innovative thinkers.