Teaching to heal the world
“How can we improve the systems we’re a part of?”
That’s the question my team posed to our 4th- through 6th-grade students last spring at The Cornwall School, in Cornwall VT. It was the start of a deep dive into education for sustainability.
What food education looks like in Cornwall VT
Integrating food studies into schools leads to thinking about interconnectedness in other ares of study. But don’t take my word for it: meet some amazing students from The Cornwall School, in Cornwall VT, who definitely won’t be surviving on Pop Tarts, ramen or mac and cheese when they grow up.
“My favorite root vegetable is probably the beet because you can do so many fun things with it. In a beet salad, you usually have thinly sliced beets with some Feta cheese on it, and sometimes, you’ll add some brussels sprouts or something, like maybe a hard-boiled egg or two on top. Another great thing to do with beets is to put it on a pizza, so pizza crust with a little Maple syrup on top with beets, Feta cheese on it.”
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Community exploration builds connection
What happens when you ask your students what they want to learn about and how they like to learn, then you turn them loose on a three-day self-directed series of projects generated from their ideas? Teachers at West Rutland School recently found out.
(Spoiler alert: it’s harder, fun, and more engaging than regular school days!)
How soon is now?
Looking for opportunities to make real-world connections or bring an authentic audience to your students? Typically, a public presentation at the end of a project or unit provides this space for students to share with a wider audience.
But authentic audiences can be found at any stage of the work.
Physical aspects of a student-centered classroom
Sometimes what seems like a little change can make a big difference. That’s what two Proctor Elementary School teachers recently confirmed when they decided to incorporate flexible seating into their classrooms.
It’s been such a success that now every classroom in their school features some sort of flexible seating options for students.
The Developmental Designs remix
Ever notice how for some kids Mondays are a lot tougher than Wednesdays? Any time there’s a break in the school routine, some kids are likely to fall out of sync. Similarly, after the long December break, crisp classroom routines can seem like a foggy memory.
After any break, students and teachers are often eager to dive back into learning. But in the heady rush of a new calendar year, it can be easy to breeze over re-establishing clear and explicit classroom routines and expectations.
Cornwall students think global, build local, share both
Last year the most amazing thing happened: my students at the Cornwall School designed and built a playground. They dreamed, planned, proposed, revised, fundraised — deep breath — organized, built and managed.
But then they taught themselves how to share their story: with social media, and with a whole world of educators, so that other students might have the same experience.
Goal global, act local
The United Nations has kicked off a movement for the future. They’ve identified 17 goals for sustainability world-wide, and they’ve given those goals to students around the world.
Here in Vermont, a cadre of passionate educators are scaffolding project-based learning around those goals. And #vted students are hard at work, changing the world, one community at a time.
The #everydaycourage of doing nothing
As we cultivate more self-direction in students, their lives get more complicated. They have a greater responsibility to themselves and their success.
How can we nurture the whole student as they grapple with becoming agents of their own education?
Feedback often feels like criticism. But what if we used it as an opportunity to grow?
In third grade, I had my own time-out chair in the principal’s office. My exuberant chattiness, combined with an 8-year-old’s lack of social filter frequently earned me a trip to that chair that sat in the corner facing the clock.
My face would burn with shame as I trudged down the long hall. As I sat and waited for the loud ticking of the clock to signal my release, I would try to figure out what I’d done wrong. Sometimes it was obvious: Nathan’s story hadn’t “gone to the dogs” as I’d loudly proclaimed. (But it had just seemed like the perfect punchline to the joke when my teacher had asked…‘Where has your story gone?…’)
Other times, many times, I was completely bewildered. I’d do my time, and then return to the flow of the classroom, as if I’d never left, edgy and bracing for my next invisible (to me) infraction.
Based upon the frequency of these visits, I doubt they were learning experiences. Instead, they were punitive, spirit-crushing time-outs; lost opportunities for growth.