February 7

‘twixt and ‘tween childhood and adulthood (and how #PBL builds maturity), Part 1

Today was one of those days I was reminded (as if I could forget!) that adolescents are neither children nor adults, and that they are moving along a jagged path that will bring them to mature behavior ever more frequently. It was also a day that reinforced my commitment to project-based learning (#PBL) as a brilliant pedagogic methodology for preparing students to succeed in adulthood.

As part of our European History studies, we recently took a field trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. In addition to a docent-led tour of the main exhibit, we each experienced a virtual reality tour with Pinchas Gutter, the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. The viewer “walks” with Gutter as he shares his recollections of being transported by jam-packed railway car to Majdanek, a German concentration camp in Lublin, Poland. Gutter continues to tell his story as he accompanies the viewer through intimate views of the gas chamber and shower room where at least 78,000 prisoners (59,000 Jews) were killed.

Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center by Wikimedia Commons shared under a  CC0 Creative Commons license.

Understandably, the field trip had a strong emotional impact on the students. We “de-briefed,” discussing emotions and connections the students felt throughout our visit. I then asked the students to collaboratively write a thank-you note to the museum employee who organized our visit.

What should have been a five-minute exercise turned into a half-hour ordeal. There were discussions about who had the best handwriting. And how the card should be signed. There were laborious analyses of the correct phrasing to use. Finally, the card was done and signed.

Next, I share the grown-up side of these students that occurred a heartbeat after completing the thank-you note.


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Posted February 7, 2019 by inspirepassion in category #DigiWriMo, PBL

About the Author

I am a process-focused leader who uses collaboration, authenticity, and mentoring as key skills to inspire passion among learners of all ages. Aggregate eclectic professional experiences have honed my ability to coach others in designing and implementing courses of study using inquiry-/project-based learning (PBL).

7 thoughts on “‘twixt and ‘tween childhood and adulthood (and how #PBL builds maturity), Part 1

  1. Daniel Bassill

    In many of my articles on the Tutor/Mentor blog I use graphics to emphasize the many years it takes for a youth to grow from first grade through high school and into adult lives. During this time having caring adults who help you with problems or provide opportunities to expand your view of the world, is really important.

    Some kids have less of this naturally available in their own lives due to economic and/or social issues, or maybe, just during some stages in this multi year journey.

    Providing those supports is really important.

  2. Sheri Edwards

    The important thing here is you allow them to work through what matters to them as they decide the best way to thank the organizer. And the students could then apply that to their deliberations on the best arguments and details for their documentary — all in support of their thesis, which was again chosen by their interests. Great examples for understanding how PBL provides not just content, but the critical thinking, organization, and communication skills needed for creating products meeting the purpose of the task and the needs of the intended audience. Thanks for sharing the events and the process so we can all learn from this example. ~ Sheri

    1. inspirepassion (Post author)

      Thanks, Sheri. The skills they learn in this process become generalized, too, so they can apply them again and again in different situations. Since the work they do is not based on rote learning, or applying a particular “formula,” it really pushes them into expanding their critical thinking and taking risks. Some of the students have the most difficulty with the idea there are often not “right” or “wrong” answers, but different answers depending on one’s point of view. They sometimes enter class wanting to be “told” the “right” answers, and are VERY uncomfortable when I don’t give them that, but rather ask them a bunch of questions and ask them to find their own answers.

      1. Sheri Edwards

        I remember those days — especially the kids who have learned the “game” of school; now they are forced to actually consider and analyze issues, rather than figure out “what the teacher wants.” Fortunately, they eventually appreciate the empowerment of actually having their voice heard. No turning back then! Then, the students who’ve never figured out the “game” feel they are finally doing something of value to them! Exciting stuff! ~ Sheri


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