Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Swimming Upstream

For the past few days I've been really excited about a few ideas that I've been working on for my students in the next month or two.  One involves a lesson where we'd research ancient civilizations and what archaeologists do for a bit and then create artifacts from a made-up civilization.  If I could find another 5th grade class willing to do the same we could exchange artifacts and use the techniques of archaeologists to try and figure out information about the other class's civilization.  Another lesson would focus on studying the mathematics and science of flight by building a life-size set of wings. 

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have no doubt that these lessons would lead to excitement, engagement, authentic learning, higher order thinking, and collaboration within and among my students.  The problems I keep running into are logistical.  Like most schools, our day is segmented into 40 minute periods.  Rarely do I have my students for more than 80 minutes at a time.  The money to fund these projects will have to come from somewhere - probably my pocket unless I can find someone to donate what we need.  We will need to collaborate with experts but the computers available to students have neither webcams, nor Skype installed.  The students in my math class and my reading classes are different.  I'll have to sell the projects to special area teachers and see if I can get them to work with us. 

All of these logistical problems can and will be overcome, and I plan to go ahead with both projects.  I just wish that our schools were set up for real learning.  We all want students to be actively engaged, but our system is set up to make it so easy to have them sitting in rows silently working out of a textbook.  Sometimes doing the really great stuff that everyone agrees is wonderful for students is difficult to organize and pull off in this environment.  Sometimes it feels like we're swimming upstream.


  1. You hit the railroad spike on the head, sir!

    Schools don't need to get better, they need to fundamentally change to allow for the kinds of work you describe here, for the very reasons you illustrated so well.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Good for you for still working to provide these more engaging opportunities for students. I agree, it's difficult to work within a system that is less than conducive to "the really great stuff," as you say.

    The more teachers that work to facilitate real and engaging learning to closer we are to improving education overall. Best of luck!

  3. How very, very true! Thank you for the post. It articulates so much of what I've had on my mind lately.