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Sunday, February 26, 2017

How Do You Develop and Embed Rich Learning Experiences?

I suggested that fifth grade teachers in our system write a grant proposal to obtain training from our local Challenger Center. For the past few years, we've been taking fifth graders to the McAuliffe Center to engage in a virtual learning experience related to the responsibility and potential we have as planetary citizens. Students are inspired by the hands-on virtual space exploration experience and the planetarium presentation. Students are equally inspired by visiting the local college campus of Framingham State University--for some, it's their first visit to a college campus.

In response to my suggestion, one of the bright and committed members of the system-wide grade-level team wondered in an email if this study would be connected to the state's new science standards. I looked up the standards and found a connection. Yet as I thought about this colleague's question, it brought up the perennial important question, "How do we work together as an educator team to create and implement rich learning/teaching programs?" This question begs further questions such as:
  • What is the ideal strategic process for curriculum idea research, share and growth?
  • How do we regularly embed the knowledge, research, ideas, and questions of all stakeholders (students, families, educators, administrators, and citizens)  into curriculum design efforts?
  • What role does good communication play in this effort?
  • How is lead time employed so that teachers can be ready for new teaching/learning?
  • How do we embed standards into rich, interdisciplinary, multi-modal, and engaging learning experiences?
  • How do we make the best use of our professional learning time in this regard?
  • How do we plan together, maximize "collective genius," and also respect educator diversity and the diversity of our teaching/learning contexts--everyone's class and school is a bit different with regard to interests, needs, support, and more?
  • How do we see curriculum planning and design as the moving target that it is? Knowledge and resources are changing at a quick pace and this impacts the teaching/learning we do--how do we best respond to this change so that we teach with relevancy and meaning? (I just bought Friedman's book, Thank You for Being Late, to help me find answers to this question. One idea Friedman discusses is the fact that "stempathy" (the combination of STEM and SEL) will be an important career of the future. )
I am a fan of rich, interdisciplinary learning experiences, yet I understand that we need to also balance that with quality skill development at the early grades too. I'll continue to think about my colleague's good question as I continue to think about and develop units of study with students and colleagues to serve students and their families well. 

What do you think of this discussion? What ideas do you have to add?