Saturday, November 23, 2013

Connections to Professional Life: Kids are Deep

Over the past two weeks, our students have been studying Typhoon Haiyen - the terrible disaster in the Philippines.  No doubt, the typhoon made its mark on our little world in a way that confirms once again that the time is now to foster advocacy in middle school students.   Given these four opportunities:
  • content information 
  • structured discussions 
  • contemporary connections
  • real-world narratives 
our students initiated a grass-roots fundraiser the old-fashioned way:  Face-to-face soliciting backed by sufficient information to give credence to their cause.  Their goal is to raise $600, and in a few weeks time, they're well on their way.  When knowledge, evidence, connections and stories are in place, there's no telling what will happen.  As teachers, we sort of kicked back and watched the students get after it.  Check out our team's fundraising effort!

After introducing various media events (among other issues) related to the typhoon, Ms. Jorgensen focused on celebrity involvement.  Since perceived relevance is an important factor in student engagement, and since most students are connected in some way to popular culture, there was controversy already.  We formed a "Four Corner Discussion" and brought this statement to the table:  Celebrities are obligated to donate to the Philippines to help the recovery effort after Typhoon Haiyen.  I won't go into detail about how the format works, because these pictures tell a lot of the story about student engagement.  You had to have been there to see the remarkable discussion that unfolded across kids who never talk in class, kids who sometimes participate, and kids who almost always volunteer their ideas.

11-year-olds are deep. 

At the end of the class period, these students could not let go of the discussion.  That was when real learning was happening.  

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