As of November 1st, both students and teachers are well into the 2015-2016 school year, with students now well-versed as to what is expected of them to be successful this year in the classroom. Teachers more clearly understand students’ aptitude and self-efficacy and these are great indicators of academic performance. The learning curve for students can be steep, but it is now giving way to developing 21st century skills and abilities. Learning has become an ongoing process requiring deeper and deeper levels of complex thought and commitment. The genius in the classroom is reflected in students’ self-motivation helping them to commit to a sustained effort for the entire school year.
Students want to be challenged as a prerequisite to learning. They must feel that their effort is valued and that it has meaning. The genius of motivation, commitment, creativity and innovation manifests itself within learning environments that are encapsulated within projects. Projects bring to the learner a high level of relevance. Students become more motivated when embracing these opportunities and they tend to feel more confident in their own abilities and in the efforts that they create through cooperation with partners, in groups or as a class.
Projects reach for high goals. Project outcomes are determined in a large part by the proactiveness of students’ own innovative thinking, curiosity and rational thought. Students become more incline to push the boundaries of what is expected of them and they become more intrinsically motivated to perform.
The Earth Stewardship Project at Streamwood High School creates this kind of inspiring learning environment that tugs at the curiosity within students to ask questions and seek greater understanding. It upends basic assumptions and leads students into a learning experience that is open-ended, full of inquiry and easily modified through innovative thought. Growing plants, sustainably, while utilizing recycled waste products from worm farms and fish aquariums, along with creating hydroponic growing mediums challenge conventional wisdom opening doors to new ways of thinking and new ways of living. It is one example of the learning process working outside the boundaries of traditional science curriculums and at the same time bathed in real-world outcomes.