Real-world challenges can broaden student learning
- Fifth grade students from National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM Middle School in Akron designed a new "tween space" at the Akron-Summit County Public Library as part of their STEM curriculum, using the library’s IT department, technology and makerspace to create the new environment, according to cleveland.com.
- They focused on details including safety, technology and collections using design software to create three possible floor plans and a logo.
- When the space opened a year later, students were allowed to help write the press release and attend the ribbon cutting of the new area which they can now enjoy themselves.
Learning in school is certainly rewarding — at least educators hope students see their experience with that point of view. Embedding lessons into real-world opportunities, however, shows them how their skills will eventually apply as adults. Weaving these real-world learning moments into ways that can also benefit the community in which students live also opens windows into students' future.
Projects that build on local needs do require a bit of work on the part of educators, notes the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching at Harvard University. These kind of assignments require that learning opportunities dovetail with curriculum — and require management of both students and the end-client, whether that’s a school library or a duck.
The final result, though, is a chance for students to test themselves beyond a multiple choice test or an oral presentation, but in a professional manner, and with a present need. In this way, administrators and curriculum directors who make these opportunities possible not only enrich a student’s education but also show them how to apply what they are learning to the world in which they live.