GAINING REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCES
Written by Nancy Mikhail
As parents and educators our goal is to prepare our children to go out into the real world and excel. In order for them to do so we must do our best to teach our children life skills. One way we can teach life skills and real-world applications is through hands-on projects and experiences; “It’s time to design a system that takes into account students’ interests, learning styles, cultural identities, life experiences, and personal challenges (Kaput, 2018)”
The projects our developers create regularly ask students to learn the content, research, explore, and create. I truly believe in learning being student-led and having them do the work rather than teacher/parent-directed (although that is needed at times). Kathryn Checkley says, “when given an opportunity, students can, and do, take ownership of their learning.” We must provide those opportunities for our children.
How do children learn content?
Through researching on their own! “Designing activities that foster learner independence is essential because they invite students to engage more thoughtfully with the content—and that engagement should include students talking about their work” (Beth Pabdolpho, Putting Students in Charge of Their Learning). Students retain information by taking action. This could mean many things but one of the ways is them finding the information on their own. We provide note-taking guides for students to help them better research.
How do students research? Can YOUNGER students research?
I have students research by having them find the information by looking through books, watching videos on the topic, and reading credible sources online.
YES! Younger students can ‘research,’ and I mean young as preschool! Preschoolers research through observation and conversation. Asking children WHAT they see and why they think something is happening is much more effective than we think. I once read a meme that said, “If your student can Google the answer, you are asking the wrong questions.” This is implying that we should ask children what they see in front of them because their observations are so valuable.
Exploration and Real-World Application
This leads me to my next point about exploration. Allowing our children to EXPLORE and take the lead is extremely valuable. In June 2014, the Stanford Center for Opportunity researched four high schools that practiced student-centered learning. The study found that all four schools outperformed traditional schools and graduation rates were much higher.
Provide experiences for children and have them observe it, come up with ideas and questions. For example, my children and I are currently growing a plant in the dark. We planted two pots with seeds and watered them. One plant is covered with foil while the other is outside in the sun. Every day my son observes both plants and is astonished (as am I) at the findings. He’s realizing that plants can indeed grow in the dark. He observes the plant that is in the dark, looks at the sprouts, asks questions, makes observations, annotates his findings, and makes future predictions. He’s being a scientist! These REAL-WORLD applications lend themselves for our children to GAIN skills that will last them a lifetime.
Many things children learn are not suitable or applicable to the real-world. However, when we are able to give children opportunities to gain and use important, applicable skills, they will excel in the real-world.