Looking for concrete examples of how to help students see science in a global context? Here’s an example of how the non-profit organization Reach the World helped students create their own science fair – and connect them to the world.
Reach the World serves low income communities through its wonderful after school and summer school programs. By connecting students with young adults who volunteer as “travel correspondents”, Reach the World “…cultivates relationships between young students and volunteer world travelers through an innovative program of online journalism and face-to-face interactions.”
Rather than retell their story, Tonia Lovejoy has granted permission for me to repost her recent article below. When I read it, all I could think was, 1) wouldn’t it be fun to be student there? and, 2) sure would have been fun to have been at their science faire in person!
Congratulations to Reach the World and the students at Rafael Hernandez Dual Language School!
Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Global Education Program Manager
Sustainability & Social Innovation
By Tonia Lovejoy, ReachtheWorld.org
(originally posted in www.guide2digitallearning.com/blog)
The GeoTech Club at the Rafael Hernandez Dual Language School in the Bronx is a prime example of student-centered, project-based STEM+ learning enhanced by 21st century technology. The GeoTech Club consists of 26 middle school students who voluntarily meet one day a week, with the mission of connecting their school to the global community. I started working with the GeoTech Club in 2010 as part of the HP Catalyst Initiative. As part of the HP grant, the school was awarded sixty HP tablets, four color printers and a wireless connection. Reach the World was granted the opportunity to integrate global competence curriculum into core subject areas using the new technology. The GeoTech Club formed to give students the opportunity to use the school's new computer lab after school.
Several months ago I reported that the GeoTech students had spontaneously proclaimed a desire to host the school’s first science fair. I had been elated. After weeks of planting the seed, things were germinating! What transpired over the past few months is remarkable. The students produced a knock-out roster of projects investigating, and postulating solutions for, some of today’s biggest global issues. Four hundred of their peers attended the science fair along with their teachers and gave outstanding feedback as well. If ever there was a testament to student-centered, project-based learning, this is it! (Special thanks to our HP Exstream Team Judges, guided by Ms. Christine Cooke, and the gifts donated byCon Edison!)
Given the opportunity to define their own learning needs, work in groups, form opinions, share ideas and collaborate, the students designed and executed eight unique projects for the fair. In addition, they designed games for their peers to play to teach about recycling, in an effort to further promote the fair’s theme of sustainability. I will admit to have fumbled along in the beginning (my last science fair was in the 9th Grade). Yet, by paying attention to the students’ feedback, I discovered that these key ingredients make great student-centered, project-based instruction:
1. Create a Culture of Inquiry Success is when your students ask the tough questions you can’t answer. Show your students how you navigate the information systems available. You can teach them how to form opinions, and distinguish other people’s opinions and testimonials from facts. In the GeoTech Club we start each day with a round table discussion about current events both global and local. I introduce the topic using a mix of digital media (photos, videos, audio). As we discuss, students look for supporting details online independently to help explain facts and opinions about the issue. Students do not have to share their opinions with the group, however, everyone must record their reflections on the discussion using the medium of their choice.
2. Model the Scientific Method Teach the principles behind the Scientific Method. Structure all of your lessons and activities around these guiding principles. In the GeoTech Club we start all conversations on a new topic, concept or idea by sharing our hypothesis about what we might learn. We record our questions, make predictions and decide as a group our best method for investigation and testing. It is a group process, moved along by executive decision-making powers (club co-presidents). I observed the students applying the principles of the Scientific Method to other situations that required informed and strategic decision-making, such as how to organize the floor plan for the science fair!
3. Think, Act, Work Interdisciuplinary The world is interconnected. Approach STEM concepts through a global lens and incorporate Language Arts, History, Art and Music. Steve Jobs stated once that he owed the vision behind Apple to a calligraphy class he stumbled into – he wanted to create a system that allowed for beautiful text. Innovation is interdisciuplinary! Choosing to look at STEM concepts through a global lens not only allows for students to see the real-world applications and/or evidence of the concepts, it gives them many avenues to continue to explore the STEM disciplines.
4. Bring the World into the Classroom Introduce your students to the world beyond the classroom by giving the opportunities to connect on a personal level with people from diverse backgrounds, with varying careers and professional interests, from around the globe. The more exposure they can get to the world of opportunities that exist for them, the more clearly they will be able to set goals for their future. In the GeoTech Club we videoconference regularly with people around the globe. This year the students followed the online journey of a Reach the World travel correspondent and Gilman Scholar, connected with students in the Agastya Eco Clubin India, and consulted with volunteer STEM professionals about their projects using videoconferencing.
Whether students are learning information in a new way due to technology is unknown. However, student-centered classes and project-based curriculum are proven to be successful teaching strategies, particularly for promoting critical thinking and teaching the interpersonal skills needed to live and work in a global community. Futhermore, technology can play a key role in implementing both strategies in schools, just take a look at the GeoTech Club!!