Exploration, The Game of Life and Systemic Inequity: Moving Students Towards the Future They Deserve
On Thursday, March 14th, PLP Pathways convened online for our seventh webinar of the 2018-2019 school year. Our topic, exploration, centered around the idea of building student experiences that focus on independent, student-driven work and that also help students begin exploring opportunities both at school, during the summers, and through college and career exploration. Here are some takeaways from our conversation.
Personal Interest Projects
As we roll into early spring, albeit through a blanket of snow, developing curriculum that allows for independence and exploration can be a great way to start hitting the school year’s home stretch. PLP Pathways contributor Meg O’Donnell discussed her use of Personal Interest Projects to spur student motivation and engagement. Using proficiency-based curriculum standards and transferable skill expectations, Meg encourages students to select topics of interest and then to pursue those topics through a variety of inquiry-based learning opportunities. Allowing students to choose their subject matter, within a project-based learning structure, can provide motivating and engaging learning experiences.
Another great way to develop student exploration of community and career opportunities is through the development of community partnerships and learning opportunities. There are numerous angles to approach this but suggestions include identifying guest speakers for classroom appearances, partnering with local organizations to perform service or community-based learning and even the development of flexible pathway internships where students get to engage with adults in the working world.
Our special guest this month was Sam Nelson from the Shelburne Community School. Sam packages student interest in their future, negotiated curriculum and career exploration into a vibrant unit called The Game of Life (click on the link above for more information). Students complete job applications, explore career interests on My Next Move, and even read through the Vermont Driver’s Manual to begin testing the waters of adult responsibility. Again, these types of exploratory learning opportunities can provide students with valuable insights and experience that connect their educational experience with “real life”.
Extracurricular and Summer Opportunities
Another exercise that can help students and families recognize local summer opportunities is the exploration of community organizations, events, and camps that support student interest, relationships and keep kids connected. Local libraries, schools, and parks and recreation departments often provide a wide range of activities that support student learning and growth. Taking time to allow students to find and recognize those opportunities, while also communicating these to parents, can be a great way for students to get excited about summer enrichment.
Issues of Equity
When pursuing community-based learning opportunities, camp, college, and career exploration, or even when working with student negotiated curriculum, educators should be deeply thoughtful regarding equity, equity of access and equity of opportunity. In our webinar conversation, we discussed how summer camp opportunities are “drenched in inequity.” That is, those who have, go, those who don’t have, do not have the same opportunity.
This is a confounding problem and one that we need to disrupt. How can we provide opportunities for all of our students? Helping students and families identify opportunities connected to the school, that have scholarships and funding, or that are free and open to all make for a good start. Whenever conducting or constructing exploratory activities, equity should be a key consideration.