On January 23rd and 30th, I’ll share how I help my 6th-12th grade students become better critical thinkers and more independent and collaborative learners. I’ll present the details of an investigative, project-based learning unit that brings them in contact with a new culture and with individuals from other countries. I’ll explain how this three-month long exploration encourages my students to recognize the value of being contributing members of their community, challenges them to responsible citizens of the world, and gives them the opportunity to work together to explore and solve complex social problems that they identify themselves.
The key to this approach is encouraging students to cross boundaries with which they’re familiar—geographic boundaries, cultural boundaries, even language boundaries—and to come together to solve a problem or champion a cause that’s central to the lives of other students who they don’t already know.
To do so, I look within my curriculum for themes that can be connected to global issues. After narrowing it down to a driving question I make connections with teachers, community leaders, and with students with whom my students can collaborate and then introduce the project to my class. The teachers involved and I work together with students, helping them investigate the issue from a perspective they choose and helping them to make the connections with individuals they can learn from. At the end, they are able to present a product or a proposal for action to each other, and to other members of our learning community.
In our first session, I’ll describe the process by which I plan and develop this project and the way in which I focus specifically on the end goal. I’ll also share how I’ve been able to integrate interdisciplinary learning and peer collaboration using digital software like the Google Suite.
With this background, you’ll have the chance to align this project with your own content standards, and when we gather for our second meeting you will have the chance to think through how to create an outline for your own similar project and the assessment tools that best align with your project goals. At this time, I will also share the detailed timeline I use to help the students and teachers move toward our common end goal in a timely manner.