Friday, November 24, 2017

The Importance of Creating Significant Learning Environments

It's been a few months since I have received my Master's Diploma, had a baby, and started back up in the classroom again. I'm exhausted, yet I still can't help but to hold high standards for myself in the way I design my learning environment. I find it important now, more than ever, to create significant learning environments (CSLE) for my students. 

Within my IB program, the Diploma Candidates that are in biology, chemistry, and physics are required to complete something called "The Group 4 Project." Many times these projects are simple research projects: gather information on a topic, put it on a PowerPoint presentation, show it to your classmates, and call it a day. B O R I N G !!

My seniors have been working on a project with the Dallas Zoo over the last year and this last week they got to see it come alive. We partnered with the zoo in the spring to design enrichment programs for some of their animals. These are activities and devices that promote the natural behavior of animals. We spent time learning about the animals' ecosystems, as well as their innate and learned behaviors. My students interviewed zookeepers to finalize their initial ideas in the spring, and developed presentations that I sent to the zoo's education team. 

From this point, zookeepers provided feedback on a handful of projects. We spent 2 days last week on this "Group 4 Project." The students took the feedback and actually created the enrichment devices! They spent time doing Google Hangouts with zookeepers for further advice and feedback, and then finalized their projects. On our second day of project time, each group showcased their enrichment device to the zookeepers through Google Hangouts as well as to the Director of Education on her campus visit. And I'm excited to hear that 3 or 4 of the projects are going to be implemented into the zoo!

Research, preparing their speeches for zookeepers, and presenting to the zookeepers via Google Hangouts and the Director of Education, Marti Copeland, as she visits.
 An enrichment device prototype for the chimpanzees and Galapagos Tortoise
CAD rendering of a new feature for the Gorillas.

The moment we become complacent in our efforts to engage students...the moment we spend too much time digging into data...the moment we turn curriculum into a check-list...these are the moments we forget who we really are as educators and administrators. There are a lot of things I believe about education... and one of those things is that it is my job to provide opportunities for my students to own their learning experiences. It is my job to create learning environments that have significance and value to those around us, and to my students. There is a time and place for lecture, writing, quizzes, and even worksheets. Those are needed at times, but at the end of the day, we're all "teaching to the test," so why not enjoy the ride while we get there? :)

There's value in significant learning environments. The amount of information my students learn and retain when they begin to own their learning is priceless. Not to mention that it makes my job easier as a teacher; I'm the facilitator of the learning environment and experiences help my students to internalize information and construct meaning. The hard work and effort they put into my class makes me proud to be their teacher! 

No comments:

Post a Comment