13 April 2015

Final Project Time

Well, I'm still sick, so I haven't got a lot to talk about. I've literally been in my room all week except for classes and a brief excursion to Fred Meyer to buy cough drops. I've been spending all my time sleeping, studying, and taking brief breaks to watch The Legend of Korra with my roommate.


The fact that I've been lying low for a while gives me a chance to just talk a bit about what I've been doing in my classes. In particular, I'm excited to tell you about my final project for my Inquiry into Teaching and Learning class. Two of my classmates and I are researching place-based education, and it's going really well since the three of us are super passionate about the subject. If you don't already know, place-based education is kind of like service learning and environmental/outdoor education rolled into one. It synthesizes teaching and learning within both the cultural history of the surrounding community and the physical ecology and landscape interacts with. It takes real-life issues and responds to them. Rather than staying in a classroom and learning from textbooks that separate subjects like math, art, and science into neat little artificial boxes, students engage with the material in an interdisciplinary, hands-on, project-based way that makes everything more relevant to them.

One example of place-based education that we learned about was a school that did a river clean up for the town. Science classes took pH balance measurements and studied bacteria and pollutants in the water, while English classes wrote an article for the local newspaper. This benefits both the community and the students. Another example might be an elementary school classroom that learns about baking. The kids practice writing by making cookbooks and learn math by measuring for recipes and counting change for the bake sale. That way, writing, reading, math, and other things are shown to have a real purpose. There's no teaching to the test in that classroom! Other schools have done trail-building, interviewed community members for oral history projects, and looked at neighborhood street art. The idea is that establishing a sense of place and learning about the immediate local world provides a foundation for learning about more global issues later on.

Anyway, for our research project, we're creating a website to use as a portfolio for our work, which includes results from a survey we just sent out about people's experiences with place-based education, personal blog entries about how we relate to place and how place-based education could be implemented in our hometowns, notable examples of place-based education, and some lesson plans to show that place-based education can be reconciled with things like Common Core standards. Next week we'll give a presentation in class for about 45 minutes. It's going to be a lot of work, but it's something I'm really excited to see the end result of. By the end, all of us will hopefully be able to tie in what we've learned to how we want to proceed as teachers in the future.

In my other classes, I'm starting my final papers for my two English classes and studying kanji and vocabulary for Japanese as usual. Also, course registration for the fall term is in progress. Fun fact: Lewis and Clark is finally offering Arabic 101!

Anyway, that's all for now! If you have any questions, email me at jessicakostka@lclark.edu.