Those of you who have been following our campaign for a while probably remember the My Wonderful World Challenge we created last fall. Basically, we selected a series of geographic proposals submitted by teachers on the Donors Choose website, and asked readers to help out with donations. We raised $1000 dollars to help fund ten proposals in total. Louise Monroe, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Frazier Elementary School in Greensboro, North Carolina, submitted a project entitled “Geocaching: Geo-Spatial Technology,” which called for GIS equipment to explore the exciting world of geocaching. “Geocaching” is a type of modern-day treasure hunt that requires mathematical and geospatial knowledge to uncover clues and find hidden treasures.
One of the best parts about the Donors Choose program is that they provide donors with substantive feedback from the teachers and students whose specific projects they helped fund. Recently, we received a package from Ms. Monroe’s class. For us, this was the most valuable part of the whole experience! We were thrilled to hear how students were using geocaching to develop a broad range of practical skills and learn about their surrounding community. As one student said, geocaching not only helped expand her geographical understandings, but also helped her to learn “the benefits of geocaching and the beauty and the mysteries of the outdoors.” And if that’s not enough, she went on to explain that “Many of us also get a good P.E. workout.” How about that: a workout that is fun AND educational!
We were especially happy to hear that word of our donation spread to a group of geocaching hobbyists, and eventually spurred another individual to get involved by providing additional GIS units and hands-on guidance to the students. This got me to thinking about the importance of dialogue between those inside and outside the world of education. Perhaps a significant obstacle to improving the way students learn is simply a lack of such dialogue. Like all issues, it seems that it is when people from different walks of life, be those differences of culture, profession, gender, etc., begin to truly listen to each other, that real change comes about.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my observation? Why or why not?
Now try this: Think of a hobby or talent that you are passionate about. Then, imagine how you can use the knowledge or understandings required to do that activity to speak to students to help them learn or experience something new about the world. Maybe you’re into baking or cooking for example, a skill that requires knowledge of math, science, GEOGRAPHY (“Where did that pasta come from?”), history, etc…the list goes on. Just remember that this should be a dialogue. Students are in no way simple blank slates waiting to be filled with knowledge. They have thoughts, ideas and imaginations of their own, and it is this creativity that can become a valuable asset to your own interests or fields.
Thought of yours yet? Great! Now let us all know what it is, and how students could benefit from it, by posting your response as a comment to this blog.
Jeremy for My Wonderful World
P.S. Be sure to stop by our blog tomorrow to catch Part II of our guest blogger Silvia Tolisano’s coverage of the "Teddy Bears Around the World" project. (Read Part I here).