Ms. C PBL Update: An Oceanography Project Begins

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This past Thursday, Ms. C–one of the two science teachers I’m doing the praxis of PBL alongside–launched her senior oceanography students into their first day of project research. Technically, she had already launched the project. While the launch was not ‘glitzy,’ getting their input into the shape of the project, its rubric, and knowing their audience pulled them into the project nonetheless. If you have ever taught at a high school, then you know that at this point in the year seniors have a tendency to start to mentally checking out of their classes. Many have found out what schools they have gotten into for next year, which may contribute to the malaise many seniors find themselves the last quarter of the year. Whatever the case, Ms. C knew she would be up against her students’ potential lethargy. To assuage her concern, contacted our cluster elementary schools and asked if their students could act as an audience for Ms. C’ s students’ project work–the answer was a resounding ‘yes.’ The built in audience of elementary school students–while it does not guarantee participation–should help keep her students motivated. Really, that is the case with any project. Without a a touch of authenticity or real audience, skeptical and reluctant students alike will not find PBL any more relevant than the worksheets they are still given. Continue reading

NY Times: China Educators Look to US Classrooms

The education crisis in America is a myth.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t serious reform that needs to happen in various districts and states, but the cold, hard reality is that nothing the federal government hands down to the states will ever be a cure all for individual systems’ woes. Another reality is that there are groups making money hand over fist from a crisis that has been manufactured by misleading data, media outlets, and policy makers. A glimmer of truth can be gleaned from an article in the New York Times, which you can read here. Published just yesterday, the article sheds light on how countries such as China are actually looking to our American classrooms for guidance on how to teach and prepare students past primary school, specifically in the sciences.

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The article asserts that China’s educators are looking to our classrooms to model our hands-on approach to learning science. The article also explains to readers the highest stakes test Chinese students take and why many parents are sending their children to America for high school. What’s the problem China officials are seeing? Their students can memorize the facts, but they don’t know how they apply to the real world, and they are unprepared to think critically. Sound familiar?

Education can be a problem anywhere, but to state what I’ve said before, we shouldn’t be trying to keep up with other countries’ test scores; rather, we should be leap frogging them in innovation. How do we do that? Continue to push students to think critically, work in dynamic teams, and foster the soft skills so desperately needed in a global market!