What if form followed function in school? Inspired by David Epstein #TED talk

On May 11, 2014, I will (quietly) celebrate a third anniversary. That day will mark the moment that I have spent exactly three years watching a TED talk every day.

Being an educator, as I watch TED talks, I think about how they might “fit” into school. I sometimes imagine the speaker as a student in a typical high school, and I wonder what courses and subjects his or her talk would align with.

And often that exercise bothers me. It bothers me because I imagine a speaker like David Epstein prepping and preparing his “Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?” talk embedded below. I wonder…. Would David be doing this “project” in math class? In science class? In history class? In English class as a persuasive speech assignment? Maybe in some technology course? Would he be so lucky as to have teachers who would allow a single project to “count” for all of his courses? After all, the project integrates a number of disciplines that we subdivide and separate in school.

And that entire imagining bothers me because of the ridiculousness of having to think this way. Why do we continue to remain so wed to the unnatural subdivision of the “school subjects?”

What if at least part of David’s school day allowed for him to pursue the project of his dreams and interests and the subject-area lenses were more like threads in a tapestry that David is weaving?

And what if that deep project identification and discernment had developed partly because of more innovative “homework” that encouraged and made room for David to explore his developing passions and curiosities?

And what if the subject areas in his school behaved a bit more like “subjects on demand” and recitations in which David could schedule time with a relative expert to spend some concentrated time digging into the statistics or biology specificity that he needed for his emerging understanding?

And what if his assessments were more akin to badges and endorsements showcasing the disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary knowledge, skills, and understandings that David was building?

And what if David were at the center of his own progress reporting and learning conferences?

Then school would look different. Because form follows function.

Enjoy the talk. It’s amazing.

Shark Tank at MVPSchool – 5th Graders Break Into Business

Last week, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School hosted a Shark Tank for entrepreneurs who were striving to establish startups in a particular target market in Atlanta.

The lean-startup entrepreneurs are 5th Graders!

Thanks to the work that Stephanie Immel (@teachingsteph) coordinated and collaborated with Monica Lage from Break Into Business! And kudos to our young entrepreneurs! What amazing experience in real-world context and application of knowledge and skills.

Read two great stories from the News Page at MVPS and on John Saddington’s blog. And see the Shark Tank judging criteria below…

“So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for.”

If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for.

Richard Feynman, as shared on Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings

Multi-disciplinary curiosity: 2 resources and the most important 21C “C”

In about 10-12 minutes, you can explore two intriguing examples of how teachers orchestrate integrated, multi-disciplinary curriculum.

From @SteveG_TLC: “Multi-disciplinary News” on What I Learned Today

Here’s a great example of how a news article we might read in the morning at TLC Middle School can be used as a springboard to learn in a truly multi-disciplinary way.

And from @BIEPBL: “Designing Integrated Curriculum” on YouTube

And I might just start putting this @ASCD article at the conclusion of every post:

The Case for Curiosity

The irony is that children are born with an overpowering need to know. They want to know what every object feels and looks like and what will happen when they attempt to do different things with that object. They want to know why people behave the way they do. This voracious appetite for knowledge defines us as a species. And it doesn’t evaporate when babies become toddlers. Every preschool teacher knows that children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years are insatiable for information. Their curiosity drives much of their learning—through asking questions, watching what others do, listening to what adults say, and tinkering with the world around them. But somehow the incessant curiosity that leads to so much knowledge during the first five years of life dwindles as children go to school.

Why place this article here? For me, curiosity is at the heart of both multi-disciplinary examples!