Monday, January 20, 2014

Learners Lead the Way

Recently, I had the privilege of joining Ms. Cabello as she traveled to The Sixth Floor Museum with a group of passionate young learners who chose to spend their Saturday morning exploring the life, death, and legacy of John F. Kennedy.  The museum itself is amazing!  The pictures, the videos, the commentary...a powerful display that speaks to the mind, heart, and soul of everyone who visits.  I left the museum that morning feeling inspired by what I had seen, curious about the life of JFK, intrigued by the times in which he lived, and...well...a little bit sad.

I was less than a year old when President Kennedy was assassinated.  Of course, I have heard about this  tragic event in our nation's history from the time I was old enough to understand.  However, as many times as I have heard the many times as I have watched that now infamous clip of the Kennedy's car moving slowly down Elm many times as I have seen the heart wrenching photograph of Kennedy's son, John John, saluting his daddy's coffin as the funeral procession passed by...I have never contemplated this event in the way that I did during my visit to the museum,  as I experienced it through the eyes of these young learners.

Third, fourth, and fifth graders...boys and girls...children with varying backgrounds, experiences, and levels of understanding.  So what brought them together?  How did they end up on this particular trip...on this particular this particular place?  The answer is quite simple.  Interest.  Passion.  A desire to learn.  This group of children came together during an Enrichment Cluster focused on the area of forensic science.  They wanted to learn more about the the world of forensics, discover what a career in forensic science might look like, and explore how forensics are used to solve mysteries in the real world.  

Their journey was an amazing one.  During the nine weeks of their cluster rotation, these young learners had the opportunity to interview an FBI agent, speak with a crime scene investigator, and
even Skype with a forensic scientist!   They learned about evidence gathering protocols, crime scene routines, chain of evidence, and the work of a forensic scientist.  But they weren't done.

As all this was happening, our country, and more specifically, our state, was remembering the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination.  Gradually, these young learners became fascinated with this national event and naturally began to look at it through their new found lens of forensic science.  That did it!  They were hooked!  They dove in deep, devouring videos, articles, websites...anything they could find about this event in our history.  

They even  talked Ms. O'Neill into sharing her own memories of the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination.  But still, they weren't done!

This eager group of...what?  Historians?  Forensic scientists?  Explorers?  Whatever we call them, the reality is this.  Together, they had discovered a passion...a thirst for knowledge that would not easily be quenched.  They had a tiger by the tail, and they weren't about to let go!  Soon I was hearing about a trip to The Sixth Floor Museum.  A MUSEUM!  On a SATURDAY!  SERIOUSLY?  Oh yeah!  They were going!  And they were excited!  They couldn't wait!  They simply couldn't get enough!  So off we went!

Which brings me full circle...back to where I began.  I've heard the story many times.  I've watched the videos, I've seen the pictures, I've read the theories.  But I have never before experienced this event like I did that day...with these kiddos.  They looked, they listened, they read, they reflected...they honored!

And that, my friends, is what The Schoolwide Enrichment Model is all about.   Giving children opportunities to discover their interests...find their passions...and dive in!  What will these young learners do with this experience?  Only time will tell.  But I can tell you this.  They experienced this historical event in a way they never could have through a textbook.  They took on challenges and overcame obstacles they never would have even faced in a traditional classroom.  At the age of 8, 9, and 10, they built a model of the sniper's lair...complete with the projection of the bullets...and defended it to members of the community.   And possibly the most significant celebration of all...these young learners discovered the importance of remembering...and honoring...our heroes of the past!

Thank you, Ms. Cabello for your willingness to step boldly into the world of the unknown and allow your learners to take the lead during this amazing journey of discovery!