Flint-area teachers brainstorm projects

Until last month’s workshop, Discovering Place teachers were clamoring to dig in and figure out their projects. Several said their biggest need was understanding how to connect a project to school day requirements, since educators need to build around Michigan’s curriculum standards.

Time to dive in! Teachers brought laptops to look up state standards. After dividing into elementary and junior high/high school groups, they began brainstorming project ideas and writing down related curriculum standards on supersized easel sheets to share. You could practically see the wheels start turning as the preliminary pieces started falling in place.

For a Saturday, the room sure was abuzz with energy. It was worth the snowy trek just to hear all the ideas bouncing around.

Granted, our educators have built a solid foundation to support their projects. Since September, we have been studying place-based education (PBE) and associated concepts such as environmental justice, inquiry-based learning, building community and partnerships, as well as asset mapping.

Of course, we want to remain judicious as we go forward, ensuring projects truly deliver place-based education.

Keeping in mind the importance of mutually-beneficial partnerships, curriculum that benefits the local environment/community, and the need for real student voice for authentic engagement, here are some questions to consider:

  • How can students have a real voice in shaping this project?
  • How can we include parents and families?
  • How does this directly impact our students’ neighborhood and community?
  • What partners could logically help coach and mentor us in this project? And what needs can we meet for those partners?
  • How will this project be sustained?
  • For older students especially, think about how they can authentically be part of positively impacting their surroundings, so they can experience the rewards of being stewards.

More curriculum and project connections are on tap! Check your e-mail for information on our next curriculum workshop, slated for Feb. 16.

Discovering Place is a program of University Outreach at the University of Michigan-Flint. One of eight hubs of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, the program aims to help students develop into Flint community and environmental stewards. Working with Flint-area teachers and community partners, Discovering Place supports place-based education projects to help students connect with their surroundings.

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