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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Building Learning/Teaching Relationships Within and Outside of Schools

I hope to attend this event tomorrow.
Last night as I listened to this week's school committee meeting, I heard a school committee member ask about possible opportunities to learn with children or in our terrific school spaces. Her idea grew from the superintendent's share of so many examples of good teaching and wonderful learning design throughout the year. I have watched many of those presentations online, and I was also positively impacted by the this share--it's one way to learn about what your colleagues are doing, and a way to develop your own craft too.

Working Together within the School System
As I think about our school system, I recognize that there are many ways for us to reach out and work together to develop learning/teaching. For example the idea was posed at the school committee meeting that the terrific tech-savvy music composition lab at the high school would be a great field trip for fifth graders. I agree. They also mentioned that some of the grade-school projects such as making bird feeders would be projects interesting to older folks and community members too. This is another good idea.

There are so many ways that we can mix and match our resources to develop great learning. Another example is that tomorrow morning the high school STEAM lab will have an open house. Parents, students, and community members may be interested in this event. I was at the high school yesterday and had the chance to see the terrific lab, and talk to the teacher. He mentioned many ideas he has for building out the use of the space and STEAM teaching.

Also yesterday I had the chance to learn with high school students as Massachusetts Audubon Drumlin Farm's Education Director gave an introduction to the SUASCO Watershed and how to be a naturalist guide to a parent, high school/elementary school teachers, and high school students. The high school students will join us soon to lead fifth graders in a local nature walk. There are countless ways that high school students can direct their learning to or about community members. Our high school history teacher does many local history and research projects. He's uncovered and integrated multiple local stories and historic facts with students--their work is well received by the community and beyond. Recently an actor reached out to them for help as he prepared for a movie about a historic event. High school students can direct their learning in meaningful ways, ways that result in positive impact to the community. Middle school and elementary school students can do the same thing. If every class had at least one project a year directed towards other community members, just think of the positive teaching/learning and community impact that would have.

Local Experts and Organizations
In the same light bringing local experts into classrooms builds knowledge and further community. When students know well the many organizations that surround and potentially contribute to their communities and schools, there's a better chance that students will later engage and contribute to those organizations. For example, yesterday when Transition Framingham presented, students learned about a resource that can help them and their families with gardening and composting efforts. Transition Wayland will also join us soon to help students develop greater knowledge and ability to recycle, reuse, repair, repurpose, reject and more to protect our Earth. Also as Robin Stuart, the Education Director at Drumlin Farm spoke, she also spoke a bit about the many jobs and opportunities there are at the farm for college and high school students. Today when representatives from Grassroots Wildlife Conservation speak, students and educators will have another resource to access as they teach and learn. And as students create and present service learning projects, they too learn about so many organizations that help people, organizations such as food pantries, homeless shelters, hospitals, animal shelters, and more. There are countless ways to reach out and develop relationships with local experts and organizations to develop deep, meaningful, long lasting learning. It's relatively easy to match this work with skill, knowledge, and concept standards, but it does take collaborative time, planning, and design.

Virtual Communities
There's lots of opportunity in our real time communities to build relationships and contribute. There's also opportunity to do this online as we help students develop global perspectives. When we reach out and build virtual communities of contribution and share, we contribute to our world and helps students to see themselves as world citizens and stewards. This is also integral to good learning and teaching.

Meaningful, Relevant, Efficient, and Useful Learning Design
I'm a big fan of managing energy and communication with regard to good work. I am also a fan of developing strong relationships to develop meaningful learning and teaching and strong communities. Too often learning is a static process that doesn't go anywhere. When learning is well directed, impacted by many in school and outside, and purposeful and multidimensional that learning is much richer and long lasting.

As I write this, I recognize that learning design stands center stage today. How we use our energy, time, and relationships to teach and learn well is integral to good learning today. I want to think more about this, and if you have any related ideas to share, please do.