A friend and colleague shared an inspirational TED video with me a few days ago. (Thanks, Sande!) In this presentation, John Hunter explains the 4th Grade World Peace Game that he developed. It is a simulation of fifty interlocking world crises that the students have to solve with their critical thinking and creative problem solving skills. It is a moving testimonial of what can be done when we move away from bubble sheet tests and focus on interactive activities that allow students freedom to explore. One gets the impression that the “game” is more than a “game” for John Hunter and his students. It is not play time–but real-world time. Students are engaged and learning.
As I watched the video, my mind brought me back to the 1980s and early 1990s when I taught middle school and high school at Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville, Florida (http://www.stantoncollegeprep.org/central/). In many respects, I was extremely fortunate. I got to teach in a wonderful school born from the minds of people like Carole Walker (first principal for the school–and my first principal as a school teacher) who were not fearful to experiment, to be innovative, and to let their teachers use class time as laboratory time. To be sure, we had educational expectations–but we had lots of latitude.
And I had the greatest students I could have ever imagined.
When I taught 7th grade geography, we had a Model United Nations. One year I had 300 students representing virtually every country of the world—and they had to solve a global problem. Their solution had to be within the context of the socio-political environment of “their” nation. We learned about culture, history, politics, negotiations, critical thinking, and collaboration. When I taught 9th grade, we did a Mock Trial in my American Government classes. Students had roles of drug dealers, informants, police, judges, attorneys, and jurors. As John Hunter says, the students rose to the challenges and responded well.
We–my students and me–were not hamstrung by prescriptive tests and forced timelines. We experimented; we had fun; we had standards; and we worked. It was a day that teachers were allowed to teach; they had lots of latitude. A lot of the good fortune we had was due, no doubt, to the students I had. Even as 7th and 9th graders they had maturity far beyond their years. Their parents were involved and supportive.
Set aside some time and view the video. This is what education should be. We need more John Hunters—and the resources that support them!
© Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog, 2011.