Why does learning in schools so rarely change the way students live their lives? Why does school seem to be so disconnected from the way the world really works? What if a science project could make this different? The cookbook, Food for Thought, created by sixth graders at High Tech High Chula Vista in San Diego, California, allows us to open a wider conversation and consider international perspectives on standards and curriculum. In addition to illuminating a Mexican Science standard, this project also suggests a recipe for how powerful learning can be achieved anywhere, helping students understand the world in which they live in a deeper, more authentic, and connected way.
This video examines how student work illuminates—and is illuminated by—the Mexican Science standard: “Students should be able to connect scientific knowledge with other disciplines in order for them to understand scientific phenomena and natural processes. They should also be able to apply this knowledge in different contexts for it to be socially and environmentally relevant.”
THE ILLUMINATING STANDARDS PROJECT
In the last two decades of the ‘standards movement’ in American public education, many educators have concluded that ‘teaching to the standards’ and project-based learning are incompatible. Ron Berger (Expeditionary Learning) and Steve Seidel (Harvard Graduate School of Education), co-directors of The Illuminating Standards Project, wondered if this conclusion is true. Indeed, they speculated that long-term, interdisciplinary, arts-infused, community-connected projects may well be one of the best ways to actually see what state standards look like when fully realized in the things students make in school—to make the standards visible.
Three questions frame the work of The Illuminating Standards Project:
What does it look like when state standards are met with integrity, depth, and imagination?
How can we use standards to open up and enrich curriculum, rather than narrow and constrain it?
How can we use student work to raise the level of our understanding of standards and our dialogue about them?
THE VIDEOS AND HOW TO USE THEM
Collaborating with Berger and Seidel on The Illuminating Standards Project, over 30 students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have explored these questions by choosing projects from the student work in Models of Excellence and considering the ways in which those projects did—and didn’t—meet specific state standards. Further, they examined how the student work illuminated the standards—and vice versa. Many of those students created short films and many of those films are presented here.
We invite you to watch these films, and we encourage you to use them as the catalyst for discussions with your colleagues about the relationship between your commitment to meet demanding state standards and approaches to designing powerful learning experiences for our students. See a suggested protocol for viewing linked below, along with selected videos from the series. (The complete list of videos in the series can be found here.)