“Would you rather hear about changing the world, or do you want the opportunity to do so? A story about a world-changer might engage us, but becoming world-changers will change us.”
~ George Couros ~
The Innovator’s Mindset
Project based learning.
The following video was used to kick off a unit of study on the UN's Global Goals: https://youtu.be/ry_9SU0eq9M.
It not only piqued student interest due to their sensitivity to threats on our planet, but it also challenged them to do something about it.
So I put it to them: What can you guys do to help spread the word about the Global Goals?
The students came up with a long list of actions they could take, from talking to their families and friends about the Global Goals to holding a community forum. They determined what would be feasible to accomplish in class and decided to create public displays, develop a web page, create promotional videos, and have a public presentation.
The most challenging aspect for me was coordinating multiple classes to work together. In the past I had different classes work on different aspects of a big project, but never before had I had students across classes working on the same endeavor. My solution was two-fold. I had a group of representatives from each class meet and organize the project. They decided how to tackle the obstacles of students from the various classes working on one project. The second solution was to create areas of communication. Students used whiteboards, sticky notes, Google Docs, and Google Slides to interact and coordinate as they researched and created.
Not only did students drive the learning and the products, but they had the ability to choose what role they would take in investigating the goals and spreading the word. In class, after having students individually brainstorm their strengths and weaknesses, I had them all circle up in the center of the room. I put it to them again: Listen to everyone and determine, together, based on strengths and weaknesses, who should do what.
|Student display at the YMCA.|
|Student display at the Franklin Municipal Building.|
They stumbled at first and had trouble wrapping their heads around how they should proceed. (I don’t think they were used to so much autonomy.) But in the end, they figured it out, without my help, and students seemed satisfied.
Many played to their strengths in video creation or technology, and some pushed to work with their friends. But others pushed themselves to take more of a risk and opted to speak during the public presentation.
As they worked, students of varying understanding and abilities challenged themselves by staying focused on the objective of the Global Goals: how to make our world better. Students were diligent and productive. They engagement level seemed heightened.
Students asked for clarification of difficult concepts as they strove to understand. Many were astounded by some of the information they dug up on topics such as hunger, poverty, education, gender equality, and sanitation. They were moved and motivated.
|Student speaking during the presentation to family and peers.|
After becoming grounded in the Global Goals, students created, developed, and designed. Once completed, they were eager to know that their work was being shared. In addition to tweeting out their web page (linked here) through our class Twitter account (@Mr_dEsClass), I arranged - based on student feedback - for the displays to be put at the local town offices and the local YMCA and for the students to make a presentation to peers and families.
Naturally, the students speaking in front of an audience were the most anxious about their work going public. The others hid behind the veil of their work being seen from afar. The speakers, however, were exposed on stage. And they came through brilliantly, rising to the occasion and impressing the audience.
At the beginning of this piece, I shared an excerpt which I had reflected on in a previous blog post:
Tapping into students’ strengths and interests seems to be vital in engaging students. It may also help lead the students to seeking the opportunity to become a “world-changer.” By grabbing students by their strengths and interests and combining that with touching their hearts, a classroom can elevate a student’s interest and engagement into wanting to make a mark on the world.
My students care; they have a strong sense of right and wrong; they want to help. Tugging on their heart strings through our common human story while allowing students to direct their learning will allow them to accomplish the great things of which they are capable.
The opportunity we took with the UN Sustainable Development Goals touched my students’ hearts, motivated them, encouraged them to rise to the occasion, and allowed them to make their mark on the world.
|An email from a parent reinforcing the positive nature of the student driven and project based learning.|
One of the student created videos.
If you have had success with project based learning, student driven learning, or service learning, or if this post has generated some thoughts of your own, please share in the comments. I would appreciate hearing from you.