Empowering Kids to Be Part of the Solution
Investigate the needs of schools and communities as real-world catalysts for learning.
Rather than manufacturing difficulties for the students to solve, Crellin Elementary instructors constantly consider school and community needs when developing projects and classes. The goal is to use those needs as real-world catalysts for learning rather than creating problems for the students to solve. This method makes learning more practical and real for kids, and it also empowers them when they realise that they have the ability to effect change in the world around themselves. Because kids can see the immediate benefits of their efforts, they become more interested and enthusiastic about learning.
Find Local Problems Your Students Can Solve
Methodology Identify local problems that your students can help you with.
Community service is seen as a fundamental principle at Crellin Elementary School. Teachers and staff are constantly looking for opportunities for the school to give back to the community, whether it is through planting a community garden or assisting in the preparation of meals for a local community centre. However, rather than simply providing service for the sake of it, Crellin identifies local problems that they can fix and links these projects to educational objectives. They do so in order to make learning more relevant and engaging.
Dana McCauley, the administrator at Crellin, believes that taking this method allows students to recognise the connections between what they’re studying and their own lives. As she explains it, “I’m not going to expect them to learn those multiplication tables because I’m completely out of things to do.” “Due to the fact that they will need to know the area we will be using later on when we are calculating how large that composter should be, and they will need to know it promptly. As a result, it is necessary to put knowledge into practise.”
3 Steps to Engagement
Teachers at Crellin recommend three primary methods for identifying real-world challenges for pupils to solve:
1. Keep your eyes peeled for any problems.
Crellin teachers are constantly on the lookout for real-world problems that may be solved in the classroom or in the surrounding community, so that pupils can learn from them. McCauley believes that after several years of using local problems as learning material, teachers no longer have to look as hard for new material.
“We discover ‘issues’ by remaining active and aware of what is going on in both the Crellin and the broader community,” she explains, adding that they discover fascinating opportunities by reading newspapers or conversing with people of the community. She even mentions that, by this point, people will be bringing problems to the school for the school to fix themselves.
Developing relationships with individuals of the community can be quite beneficial. It is recommended by McCauley that the best method to begin started in this area is to spread the word that you are searching for difficulties that the students can assist you with. The greater the number of people who approach teachers and suggest prospective initiatives after you open your doors to the community, the better. “It’s all about the relationships,” McCauley emphasises. In frequent communication with parents and representatives from many organisations in the community, we are aware of the needs that exist.
2. Connect projects to specific learning objectives.
“Everything is a learning opportunity, right?” McCauley notes, and this is a sentiment shared by all Crellin educators. Teachers then begin looking for ways to use a problem or issue as a stimulus for learning once a problem or issue has been discovered. What standards can they connect into the problem or issue, for example. What strategies might they use to widen the scope of the problem in order to achieve more learning objectives?
As an illustration, McCauley uses the example of cooking, in which children must apply math and reading skills, as well as follow directions and work with measuring instruments. It’s important to highlight that “you’re not going to cook just for the sake of cooking,” as she puts it. In this way, all of the things you need to teach are tied together and made more relevant.
When creating a problem-based curriculum, teachers should ask themselves questions such as:
Why would we do something like this?
What exactly are we doing?
What do we want to gain from the experience?
This enables them to guarantee that they are meeting learning objectives rather than simply tossing out random issues that will only confuse their pupils and make them feel frustrated.
Allow Students to Participate in the Steering
Teachers may be unsure of where to go for a local problem or issue, or they may have a large number of real-world difficulties or concerns to pick from. This is the point at which Crellin teachers frequently turn to their students for feedback on what they find most intriguing.
“If I had to choose a project,” McCauley adds, “I suppose I would look at the youngsters and allow them to assist me.” She presents a scenario in which she gives them the choice between two projects or challenges, and then invites them to participate in a debate guided by questions such as:
Which of these do you believe we could be a part of, and why?
Which one do you think you’d want to be a part of the most?
What are the advantages of doing so?
McCauley points out that student choice can be an important element of the learning process. The author goes on to say, “I don’t believe we always have to be the ones to select.”
Not only do students gain a sense of ownership, but the teachers are also aware that there is some interest in the subject matter before the students ever arrive. Even if the teacher decides to divert the project in a different direction — perhaps for reasons of safety or feasibility — at least the students will have had an opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions. “I believe that allowing children to participate in that discourse is crucial,” McCauley says. “In this way, students will be able to comprehend why certain decisions are being made.”
The Benefits of Real-World Problem-Solving
Once students have the opportunity to participate actively in the solution of problems that have measurable outcomes, they are more motivated to participate in the solution of other problems. This allows them to delve deeper into the learning that they require in order to find those solutions.
In addition to educating children to think critically, McCauley emphasises the importance of training children to be reflective, as well as to be creative in their approaches. “Following that, it doesn’t matter what difficulty you throw at them; they’ll be able to figure it out. In order to think things through logically, they’ll need to develop certain talents.”
“It’s a great opportunity to learn something when you can assist youngsters recognise the impact they can have on solving an issue in their own tiny area of the world,” says McCauley. It’s a chance to make something positive happen in the world. That provides them with a sense of belonging and a sense of being a part of something greater. ‘Here’s an issue, here’s a problem, and I’m going to lend my part to that. Even I, as a ten-year-old, have something to add to that.'”