The purpose and design of student work is becoming more and more of a focus for us here at NSE and in Richland School District Two. We are getting to know our students in different ways in order to learn more about their needs, interest, and passions. Our goal is to design our units and lessons around our students using the expertise of our teachers, the common core standards, and the needs of our school and community. We are beginning to engage our students in projects and activities that have an impact on our school and or community. For example, we have a group of students who created and organized a litter club that would help keep our playgrounds clean. Our second grade STEMS classes created sea lion habitats to present to the Riverbanks Zoo. Experiences such as this have not always been a part of the education experience.
In his book, An Ethic of Excellence, Ron Berger talks about his experiences going through school. He candidly explains that he does not remember doing any meaningful work during his education. He shares that his time was spent completing worksheets, workbook pages, math problem sets, reports, etc... that would be read by one person (the teacher) and that is it. In most cases, the first draft was the final draft and that was what he was graded on. I am sure that many of you had similar experiences growing up.
Of course, we all seem to have turned out pretty good and probably consider ourselves fairly educated. However, the work force in which we are preparing today's students is much different than the work force we were prepared for. Most of today's work force is what Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, would call "knowledge workers." Knowledge workers must be creative, collaborative, and able to communicate globally. Worksheets, textbooks, and workbook pages alone will not produce such a human resource. However, engaging students in meaningful projects and assignments that have a real world impact will prepare them for the future.
In addition to creating these experiences, it is essential that we create opportunities for our students to present, share, publish, and or showcase their work. When the second graders designed what they thought would be a good habitat for the sea lions at the zoo, they took their designs to the zoo and presented them to the zoo staff. This is real world work that could have an impact on our community. There are several ways that we have attempted to allow students to showcase their work. We have designed the front office to showcase student work. We often have students share their work on the NSE Today Show. Students design projects in our design center for the annual book fair. We organize opportunities for our students to compete in competitions requiring them to submit work or ideas. We have showcase nights that allow students to display and explain their projects to their parents and others. In addition, I enjoy showcasing student work and class projects in the NSE Discussion Blog and on the Principal's website.