Learning in Life Events

Happy New Year to all readers! Here is hoping that all of you are seeing 2008 as a great year of learning for yourself and the educators and students that many of you serve.

During the holidays, an article in the ASCD SmartBrief (This is a daily email with news from the education world. Click the link and choose ASCD Smart Brief under Education for a free subscription.) caught my attention as it mentioned students at Hartford High School in Wisconsin. I have had the pleasure of working with staff there on several occasions exploring their work with mentoring and peer coaching.

The story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal mentioned a project where DECA (a student marketing club) students at Oconomowoc and Hartford high schools planned Christmas for 230 preK-4th grade students at Hopkins Street Elementary School in Milwaukee where 97% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

In earlier blogs, I explored an expanded definition of student achievement (Nov 11) to include Life Skills and Community Responsibility and I wrote about the power of Live Event Learning (Nov 18). This Christmas Project illustrates how students can be given the opportunity to experience, practice, and internalize the aptitude, attitude, and skills important to fulfilling and productive futures.

My finding is that the key to successful Live Events is to find something that will make an emotional connection with the students.Then, trust that the natural curiosity and critical thinking of the students will push the learning into areas that were not initially planned by the teacher. Here is where teachers need to take some risk, allowing the event to take on a “life of it’s own”. The teacher is facilitating, teaching needed skills as the need arises (just in time learning), and debriefing or making conscious the learning or insights students are gaining along the way.

As you read through the following quotes from the article, consider where parts of the academic curriculum along with life skills and citizenship responsibility are being practiced .

“One student ‘adopted’ nine kids because she decided she didn’t want anything for herself for Christmas and would use the money that would have been spent on her to buy things for them.”

The families of the suburban students also got involved, with parents, many through their businesses, donating money to buy more gifts and snacks for Friday’s holiday party at Hopkins, 1503 W. Hopkins St.

Other local businesses got into the spirit of the project and also made donations. The Oconomowoc Student Council donated $1,400.

Even use of the bus that will transport the gifts, food, high school students and one volunteer dad playing Santa to Milwaukee has been donated.

Staff at Hopkins identified seven families of students in particular need this holiday season, and those families have been the focus of special attention by the high school students and their families.” 1

Very often, Live Event Learning activities create ongoing learning opportunities. Consider the following statements from Maurice Turner, the principal at Hopkins Street Elementary:

“I’m hoping this will not be the end of it; we would like to continue a relationship with that city. Many of our children have never been outside the boundaries of their neighborhood, much less outside the city limits. But I’d like them to go visit Oconomowoc sometime and see what it’s like.”

Can you imagine the learning opportunities leading up to that trip, the day of the trip, following the trip? For students and staff at all the schools?
For parents and community members from both schools?

Do you have an example of Live Event Learning you’d like to share here… drop me a note and I’ll follow up.

1 Bearing Gifts, Teens will traverse afar-Youths living in suburbs will enrich yule at inner-city school
By Amy Rinard,
Posted: Dec. 19, 2007, Milwaukee Journal Sentinal Online

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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