Monday, April 27, 2009

Micro Collaboration: Project Mexico

This mural is actually three panels executed by three sixth grade students depicting major events from different periods of time during the long history of Mexico. The History of Mexico. Part of some requirement that has to be covered in the sixth grade social studies curriculum of this Northern Vermont city. Can't you hear it now? "Okay, kids. Now that we've finished studying the rainwater cycle, for the next three weeks we'll studying Mexico. The history of Mexico. The entire history of Mexico."

Sometimes the ebb and flow of school content doesn't seem to make much coherent sense. Don't get me wrong. I mean it's a good thing these students still have social studies, given the frenetic focus on literacy and mathematics learning forced upon the schools by high stakes, narrowly articulated, statewide assessment systems. But with curriculum coming at them in a seemingly helter-skelter fashion how are they to make sense of it all? How to fit it together so the children see connections across the content. And how to jump into Mexican history in a way that engages their considerable but often latent interests.

This article explains one way the jump occurred, a jump that was a bit unusual, highly motivating, and eminently successful in terms of content acquisition. This article explains how one University professor and one public school teacher, both respected members of their own dominions, brought their students together to engage in the study of Mexican history. I'm terming this teaming a Micro Collaboration. It was high energy, low key, of short duration, and flew under the radar of required and complicating systemic agreements. In short, it was a plan executed by the two individuals that served both their teaching needs and resulted in both groups of students - university eighteen year olds and public school eleven year olds - learning a ton while engaging the other in real academic study, 6th grade style.

more to come