Project-based learning is in full swing at Poudre High School in Colorado. “FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is all about inspiring and motivating students to become engaged in math, science, engineering, and technology. Each year, teams of students, teachers, and professional engineers respond to the FIRST challenge by designing and building a robot,” writes Roberta Furger. Students on the team have become passionate about their creations. “‘The hands-on experience I gained from working on this project has just been absolutely phenomenal,’ says Tsai, a two-year veteran of the Poudre High Robotics Team…‘It's really neat the way the students design and fabricate the robot. It really shows you what you can do.’”
In this YouTube video, students express their profound need for a change in the way classrooms are run today. Fixated more on their Ipods, Facebook profiles, and text messaging rather than on what their professor is saying, this video demonstrates the thoughts and feelings of students while teachers think they are listening. Students want their teachers to change how the curriculum is taught to be up to date with the latest technology rather than lecturing in front of the class.
"The teachers at Don Mills Collegiate Institute are now the students," writes Kristin Rushowy, an education reporter. "Faced with teens who know more than they do about technology, the Toronto high school began an 'adopt-a-teacher' program where students teach the adults how to create blogs or interactive graphics, edit video, or even just improve their PowerPoint presentations. 'Half the school's teachers signed up for the tutoring,' says Sharron Forrest, program director of the Toronto high school's renowned CyberARTS program".
A special report from Indiana University's High School Survey of Student Engagement, based on 81.000 student responses from 26 states, reports, "Today's high school students say they are bored in class because they dislike the material and experience inadequate teacher interaction." In addition, "the findings, show that 2 out of 3 students are bored in class every day, while 17 percent say they are bored in every class." Furthermore, lack of adult support and skipping school were also mentioned as reasons for high drop out rates among students.
"Six students in the Philadelphia public school system were each given a video camera as part of an independent film project. That simple premise expanded radically over the next two years, resulting in this profound and vital documentary covering the difficulties these applicants faced preparing for college while dealing with the daily trials and tribulations inherent in being a student in schools with a 50% or worse drop-out rate. While conditions may be difficult, the film does offer signs of hope", writes reviewer, Alexander Russo.
Seattle’s Aviation High School is open to anyone with a “passion for aviation”. This project-based learning school demonstrates that textbooks are not the only way to learn. In this web-video, students show how they solve real world problems such as designing wings on an aircraft to bear a weight load, while proving that science and engineering is do-able for high school freshman. In the end, students presented their ideas to aviation experts. Assessment included the experts’ score on presentation and teammates’ scores for each other’s efforts.
For the first time, instead of asking the parents and teachers, the state of West Virginia asked the students what they wanted in schools, as well as their opinions of how well the schools were doing. 4,955 5th-12th grade students from across the state filled out the internet survey, and “improved technology” was the top response. In addition, advanced courses, smaller class sizes, and increased hands-on learning experiences were desired. To read the complete survey and analysis, click on the link above.
Kathleen Cushman talked with 65 students nationwide, learning their insights on a range of issues that exert a largely unnoticed effect on how they learn and thrive. The students describe small signals that tell them whether their school expects them to succeed. They suggest ways to include their peers in routine decisions adults often make-about security, food, transportation, discipline-which affect their school experience. When they speak of matters that may seem purely practical, they link these back to the crucial issues of relationships between adults and young people. Students speak eloquently of the sense of investment and trust that follows when those relationships are strong and inclusive.
For Kia Askew and other students in Camp Hill, Alabama it matters that the teachers at the front of her classes at Edward Bell School mostly come from this small African American community, where she grew up. Said Askew, “When we say something is hard for us, they can understand why,” she says. “They can see it from our point of view.”
What’s a new teacher to do when "she’s trying to be nice and they’re setting fires in the bathroom," as one Oakland teenager put it? How can a teacher transcend the barriers of adolescent identity and culture to reach across diverse students in today’s schools? Forty students from three cities contributed their perceptive and pragmatic answers to help create this guide for teachers of teenagers.