I’ve been in school for about 3,600 days. That’s 28,800 hours of school from pre-K-11th grade.
In these hours of schooling, I’ve been in project-based classes, lecture-based classes, and everything in between. As a rising high school senior nearing the end of the pre-K through 12th-grade conveyor belt, I believe that the most meaningful classroom experiences emerged from teachers making a point of connecting me to the world outside.
Recently, the roles switched, and for the first time, I became a teacher. I taught pre-k/kindergarten students in a program for low-income children run by Avance North Texas and taught third- through fifth-grade students at a camp run by United to Learn. At both, I taught children and helped design the curriculum.
Through my experiences as a student, teacher, and curriculum designer, I learned that all students are actively engaged when learning experiences are interactive and connected to the real world.
I vividly remember sitting on the floor of a colorful classroom, surrounded by energetic pre-kindergartners, and shifting my attention towards 3-year old Alison. It was time to learn about plants and her face lit up as I pointed to the long, green sticky base of the first flower.
“Stem!” she exclaimed. We then explored the plants around the building with gusto.
A few weeks later, I sat in yet another classroom, but with a different set of slightly older children. This time, third- through fifth-graders were working on STEM-focused activities designed by me. When building bridges out of popsicle sticks, we asked questions like “How can we improve our design?” and “Why did the other group’s structure collapse?” We even had one group build a bridge that could hold 100 books.
What I’ve learned from my summer is that it’s a myth that one needs expensive technology and field trips to have meaningful, real world-based experiences. All I needed were plants, popsicle sticks, and books to spark more excitement in children than any test or worksheet would have.
It pains me to hear adults complain about how kids these days are not intellectually curious. We love the real world. So, as 155,000 students and 10,000 teachers go back to school in Dallas ISD alone, let’s connect learning at school to the real world.
Greenhill School senior