Real-life learning lessons from an article about the Intel Science Talent Contest #WhatIfWeekly

First, a few quotes:

  • “The program, said Valerie Holmes, one of its teachers, encourages students to find a subject with which they have a personal connection.”
  • “At Stuyvesant she continued to explore what she describes as “how interdisciplinary science can be.””
  • “Part of what the research program teaches students, Ms. Holmes said, is tenacity; Dan and his advisers approached 30 to 40 potential mentors before finding one who would take him on.”
  • “From there she taught herself cellphone software coding and electrical engineering techniques, using “breadboards” and a soldering iron. “Engineering is the field that worships impact,” she said of her choice to enter it, “and to have the greatest impact, it has to be in the developing world.””

[All emphasis mine.]

From “A Laboratory Grows Young Scientists,” By ETHAN HAUSER,, Published: March 11, 2013.

When students are encouraged and empowered to engage in real-life learning, for which they can see the relevance now, strong progress and achievement is made. And not just for the students, but for the larger world of which they are a part.

From the quotes above, one can see five key components of “real-life learning,” something I write about often here. These traits make for some great education. Schooling could be enhanced to facilitate more of this kind of learning.

  • personal connection
  • interdisciplinary
  • tenacity
  • taught herself
  • to have the greatest impact

What if school possessed more of the characteristics of scientific research, investigation, and exploration? And I don’t just mean that school should “do more science.” I mean that the very culture and foundation of school could look more like the culture and foundations of science – observing, questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, reflecting, repeating with additional insights from testing, etc. Sounds a lot like innovating, too.

I’ve rarely (never) been to a lab where the scientists spent most of their time in rows and columns of desks receiving content for much of the day, day after day.



In a nutshell, the quote below sheds great light on why I believe in “pracademics” – those people who DO project-based learning and share their joys and frustrations, those people who speak about online presence only while developing a significant digital footprint themselves, those people who experience PLCs before commenting positively or negatively on their function and value, those who use the tools of a faculty growth plan to organize their professional learning if they expect others to do so, those who model faculty meetings in the form which they expect from classrooms, etc., etc.

Learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a recipe book is not the same as picking up a utensil and cooking. Albert Einstein once said, “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you must put it into practice.

From “The Ultimate Gift,” sblankenship, Connected Principals, Dec. 19, 2011

Learn by doing. Encourage others to learn by doing. Promote learning by doing. Build wisdom by employing your growing knowledge in order to make a positive difference in this world. If you haven’t already, start today. Start now. Go. Do.