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Author Topic: The Chance to Do Something REAL
Member # 8980

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In the thread about Hidden Empire , OSC says ,
Adolescents crave the chance to do something REAL in the world. When they are blocked, it infantilizes them.
Just look at what Luna9 (now 11) has written in They'll Be Nothing. It appears that she is craving that chance right now. I think this is true for pre-adolescents as well. I'm going to be a fifth grade teacher next year. I've been in fourth grade for many years before that. The fifth graders are at the pinnacle of the elementary school years and they also crave the chance to do something real that's fitting to their "higher" status.

I've been thinking long and hard about this since I learned I was moving to fifth grade. What can I do to give them the agency, the power, the responsibility, the freedom to do something truly worthwhile to them when I'm required to teach so many things that I don't have enough time to teach them. (For example, teach an overview from Civil War to today, including the War on Terror. How can I possibly do that in 30 or less minutes a day and have it be meaningful? But, I digress.) I've been mulling the idea of having a year-long project that is student-generated on a topic that the student chooses.

The question is, how do I do it? I'd love to hear about experiences you all have had, whether at a younger age or older doesn't matter, that have allowed you the opportunity to truly delve into content that you wanted to learn about, in a school setting. I know we all pursue content outside of school, but I'm asking as a teacher, "How can I make this happen for my kids, this year?"

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Member # 9253

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Collect pennies and at the end of the year, vote on a local charity to donate them to. They can learn about two or three charities through the year, and choose their favorite.

Collect books to give to a children's hospital.

Clean up trash at local parks, beaches, etc.

Tend a class garden, and give the veggies to a soup kitchen, and flowers to a convalescent hospital.

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Member # 8561

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Yeah, I don't think that this desire is limited to adolescents nor is infantilization the consistent result. For more on the subject, we go to High Expectations Asian Father.
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The Rabbit
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Sala, If you haven't seen it already, watch this TED presentation by Kiran Bir Sethi. I think what she is doing at the Riverside school in India is what you are reaching for. You won't be able to repeat exactly what she does, but it should trigger some good ideas. One of the most important things she reports in the talk is that doing something REAL actually improved the students scores on exams -- so its not the either or proposition some might think.
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Member # 8980

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Rabbit, that was a fantastic presentation! Thanks for sharing. She has certainly given me some ideas. I wasn't thinking globally the way she is . . . my thoughts were more of internal interest to the kids: their favorites, their hobbies, their families, etc. I think I still want to do the internal interest, but this presentation is stretching MY perspective to the global arena. The contest they have where the kids design and implement for a week something that will impact their local society . . . WOW!
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Member # 8980

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Mighty Cow, those are some great ideas, too!

Samprimary, at first I wasn't sure what your point was, but I get it now. Instead of infantilization, the result can be this HEAF meme. Interesting.

Keep the ideas coming, folks! The more ideas I have the better I will be able to present my hopes to the kids and thereby see something worthwhile actually come about.

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Member # 9499

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When I was in Jr. High (so a little older than your kids) there were two big projects that really inspired us.

One was directly related to history - and was more of a fun project, but because we truly owned it, it made it fun. The teacher divided us into several groups (she taught the entire grade, so it was more than just one class) an assigned each group a major battle or "moment" in Texas history. Each group was required to write a movie script about their subject and then recruit classmates to be in the movie, and find or create all the props needed for their script. At the end of the year she filmed each group and compiled the set into a movie about Texas history that spanned pretty much everything we were learning. This wasn't quite the "real world" but it definitely made us feel important at the time because the project was so massive and we actually OWNED it - the teacher didn't help much and our parents were required to butt out.

The second project was a "change the world" project. We did it as a class, but you could easily make it more individualized. We had to decide on a few key things we wanted to change about our government. Then we wrote letters to congressmen and other schools. I don't think we actually accomplished much, but we felt like we were taking an active role in our own worlds. You could make it more personalized by having each student decide on the one thing they most want to change in the world at the start of school, then generally coaching them through a series of steps to try to accomplish this. This might be having fund raisers, volunteering time, writing letters, or any number of things - as long as they feel involved.

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