I look at the headlines, (Election 2016!!) and the more extreme things that turn up in my facebook feed (rapists walking free after three months, or not at all; yet another black man shot dead by police; abused children, abused elders. When will it stop?
It just might stop if we actively start growing empathy in our students. STEM, STEAM, Makerspaces...as a World Language Teacher I have been on a crusade for nearly two years to bring WL to the STEM table. Content integration, interdisciplinary projects, honestly the names have become completely meaningless to me by now. We need to be working together and making connections.
Then came Design Thinking. I had been following John Spencer's posts and video shorts, but when I read the book Launch that he wrote with A.J. Juliani I was struck by the first phase of the Launch process:
That is what we are missing from our STEM class and our Makerspaces. Our Project Based Learning endeavors must begin (and I would add end) with EMPATHY. That is perhaps the single most important ingredient we can cultivate in our schools -- and notice that I am not using the word "skill", because I don't quite think EMPATHY fits that category. It is more of an essence that is always there at the start, but that can wither away if hate is allowed to take its place. At the same time, once it grows, once you show it and share it, you will always have more.
This realization brought me to the desire (insistence if I am to be completely honest) to have a Service Learning component to my projects. I have spent about six months at this point marveling at the seemingly random connections I've made, and the opportunities both for myself and for my students that have dropped into my path. Upon reflection, however, I think it is just further proof of what my good friend Fran Siracusa has said: Good Brings Good. Such an incredibly simple concept, but one that is proving to be true every step of this journey I am on with my students -- and I choose those words very deliberately. This is not a journey on which I am leading them, we are truly learning together. And isn't that something powerful on its own!
In May, I wrote this post about Going Glocal after connecting with Karishma Bhagani and her organization Matone de Chiwit. All by itself that post has a whole lot of kismet going on! I had grand plans to weave Karishma's work into what I was going to be doing with a project-based team at my (now former) school. Things changed.
The weekend between New Teacher Orientation at my new school and meeting the students for the first time I attended EduPassions. It was unbelievable as a conference. Totally inspiring, practical ideas I implemented day 1...and my door prize. I won a year's subscription to Nepris. Now I'm a self-proclaimed techie rebel, but I had never heard of Nepris. Yet, I put it on my list of top 3 prize choices, because Nepris claims to "Connect Industry Professionals to Every Classroom". I was intrigued. While walking to get coffee, I decided to throw together a description of what we are doing with Matone de Chiwit, and see if they could find us a match.
Ryan Beltran confirmed his participation within a day and a half. Ryan is the founder of Elequa.io, and also a filmmaker. Oh, and fluent in Spanish. His expertise could not have fit our needs any better. So to bring this chapter of my story to a close, today, Wednesday September 14, was our sixth day of school. My students have learned about water scarcity in Latin America, divided themselves into project strands (Marketing, Fundraising, Research) and posed professional questions (in Spanish) to an expert in the field. On Day 6. My other Spanish 3 class didn't have the same opportunity, but that's OK, because
- The video will be available soon.
- Tomorrow they are presenting their project plans via Periscope to educators around the world - and inviting them to join us in making a difference.
In my research to create a database of Service Learning Experiences for WL Teachers and their students, I have been overwhelmed at the possibilities that are available to give our students authentic learning opportunities WHILE MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. The opportunities are out there, and once you begin the process of making connections, the good takes over.
This is a call to action. If you've never done a PBL Project before, do one that HELPS. Find a problem in your community or elsewhere on the globe, and HEAL. Let's displace all the hate by growing empathy so big the hate has nowhere left to go. It's time.
What will you do? Let us know!