Building Blocks for Meaningful Learning

It is said that knowledge is power.  And while a large portion of a person's intelligence is measured by one's understanding of the basics - Math and Literature, Science and Social Studies - real knowledge comes from so much more than that; as adults we take pride in our understanding of the topics that we have chosen to learn about such as art, design, architecture, movies, video games, politics, current events and so much more, so why not give children the same sorts of options?  

Now, more than ever, we have a plethora of resources to help us create meaningful learning opportunities for students.  This, in large part, is the entire premise behind the movement for project based learning and flipping the classroom.  So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite resources for diversifying the learning experience and empowering children to engage with the world around them.

 

Current Events

We look to the news to learn about the world around us - current events, politics, sports, science, etc - so why not bring that same sort of resource into the classroom?  Scholastic News and Time for Kids feature really great, simply worded, brief articles written just for younger children; while PBS News Hour Extra and CNN Student News feature great content for older students.  Plus, National Geographic Kids is always a great resource for supporting kids as they begin to independently explore the world around them.  Have your class read "the news" for homework one night a week, and bring in some sort of response to their favorite article.  It could be an opinion piece, an illustration, a diorama, an experiment or investigation, or just about anything else so long as it communicates what they learned as a result of their reading.  In this way, not only is each student guaranteed to learn something new about the greater world, they will also be able to teach their friends and classmates about new topics of interest.

 

Culture

For many students, academics seem overwhelmingly dull and boring, but art and culture are of definite interest.  So, why not find ways to integrate the former into the latter?  MoMA has a great learning section of their website with content that is accessible to middle and high school students, while their Destination Modern Art site was created for kids ages 5-8.  Plus, the Google Art Project gives students virtual access to some of the best museums from around the world.  ArchKIDtecture is a site dedicated to teaching children about the connections between architecture and math, science, and visual literacy.  And the New York Philharmonic created a Kid Zone website with amazing resources for children to learn more about instruments, composition, music history, and more.  With so many amazing options available, there really is no excuse for not integrating art and cultural education into the classroom (especially as arts funding is being cut from the budget!).  Children can be challenged to  identify thematic connections between a culture of study and their paintings, sculpture, buildings, or music.  Or students can research how the natural elements in a given environment influenced a society's choices for creative and construction materials, and the sorts of instruments they created.  The options are endless, and have the potential to be so much fun!

 

This list doesn't even begin to cover the amazing selection of resources available online and in apps, but it is a start.  And more than anything, it is evidence of the fact that we can do more and better in America's classrooms ...