More and more frequently, when administrators and teachers want to highlight the best work their students are doing, they do not point to test scores, but rather to interesting and successful projects kids have done in the real world. A superintendent in Colorado has kids present to teachers and parents about the pillow-based controller they designed to allow a severely disabled kid to attend school. Another talks about his students restoring the historic ships in his community. A third mentions the prosthetic hands his middle schoolers are creating for kids who need them.
Evolving teachers are at the heart of this. These teachers are going beyond the required curriculum and encouraging their students to not just follow their passions, but to apply them usefully to the real world, and to make their world—personal, local, national and global—in some way a better place. Real-world projects used to be the stuff of “science fairs” (and still is, such as the girl who invented a phone powered by the heat of one’s hand)—but real-world projects are making their way into more and more classrooms and into more and more kids’ lives.
If you take the trouble to look around, or to ask the students in your charge, you are likely to find many examples of this—kids who, individually or in teams, have done an unusual, and world-improving project. There is a database highlighting many of these real-world student projects at btwdatabase.org. The Design for Change organization has sponsored thousands of these projects—high-tech, low tech and no tech—in schools around the world.
It is important that we encourage these new capabilities of kids to better their world, and one excellent way is to highlight and point out, to kids, to other teachers and to parents, your students’ successes in this area.
One way to do this is through live presentations and recognition ceremonies. But in this day and age, the most effective way to spread the word is to have the kids doing each project make a short (1-2 min) video about what they have done and post them on You Tube. There are many excellent examples in the database and on the Design ofr Change site.
Encourage all your constituents to watch these videos. Share them with colleagues and other schools. Show them to parents. Everyone will be happy you did.