Cultivating Connections that Matter
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You Can't Build Empathy Sitting Down
We know there is value in pushing students outside a protective academic bubble to participate in real world learning and service, but teachers struggle to find time, resources, and assessable outcomes. While teaching at the International School of Helsinki we designed an interdisciplinary unit template that challenges students to develop their own meaningful answers to real world questions. Lessons strategically blend student experience and opinion with academic study and authentic experiences. To culminate, students synthesize their learning in performances of understanding that connects them to the community. Our model for interdisciplinary, real world based learning pushes students to challenge their assumptions and expand their empathy.
Our template can be broken down into six key sections:
1. Engaging Question Connecting Student Experience to a Universal Theme: What are the big picture concepts in the unit of study that students can apply to their own lives?
2. Materials to Deepen Understanding: What learning experiences, people, places and resources can you use to spark interest and drive the unit forward?
3. Community Connected Experiences: Where can you take students to witness the real world application of this theme? Who could you invite to speak with them? Are there possibilities for service?
4. Mid Unit Assessment for Learning: How can students engage with the learning materials to demonstrate new understandings about the learning materials? How will this assessment help them develop tools/knowledge necessary for the Performance of Understanding?
5. Synthesized Performance of Understanding: How can students showcase their learning in a creative and meaningful way? Is there any way to connect this performance to the community?
6. Purposeful Reflection: What questions can you ask students to uncover how their thinking will have changed after taking part in this unit?