Reopening: Moving Toward More Equitable Schools

What's Up (Frequently Asked Questions About Space, By Kids, For Kids): Illuminating Standards Video Series

Created By

EL Education

Type

Videos

Grade Level

Discipline

This video demonstrates how a project-based approach to science with an authentic audience for students’ work can build deep conceptual understanding. Contrasting a third-grader’s clear understanding of an astronomical concept with the misconceptions of Harvard graduates, the video follows up with the featured third grader five years later to show that her understanding was retained. This video sharply displays Common Core literacy standards, and shows how they can be reached deeply in an inquiry-oriented classroom with integrated arts. 

The Illuminating Standards Project

In the last two decades of the ‘standards movement’ in American public education, many educators have concluded that ‘teaching to the standards’ and project-based learning are incompatible. Ron Berger (Expeditionary Learning) and Steve Seidel (Harvard Graduate School of Education), co-directors of The Illuminating Standards Project, wondered if this conclusion was true. Indeed, they speculated that long-term, interdisciplinary, arts-infused, community-connected projects may well be one of the best ways to actually see what state standards look like when fully realized in the things students make in school—to make the standards visible. 

Three questions frame the work of The Illuminating Standards Project:
~ What does it look like when state standards are met with integrity, depth, and imagination?
~ How can we use standards to open up and enrich curriculum, rather than narrow and constrain it?
~ How can we use student work to raise the level of our understanding of standards and our dialogue about them?

The Videos

Collaborating with Berger and Seidel on The Illuminating Standards Project, over 30 students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have explored these questions by choosing projects from the Student Work Archive in the Center for Student Work and considering the ways in which those projects did—and didn’t—meet specific state standards. Further, they examined how the student work illuminated the standards—and vice versa. Many of those students created short films and 13 of those films are presented here.

We invite you to watch these films and we encourage you to use them as the catalyst for discussions with your colleagues about the relationship between your commitment to meet demanding state standards and approaches to designing powerful learning experiences for our students.


Created By

EL Education

Type

Videos

Grade Level

Discipline

This video demonstrates how a project-based approach to science with an authentic audience for students’ work can build deep conceptual understanding. Contrasting a third-grader’s clear understanding of an astronomical concept with the misconceptions of Harvard graduates, the video follows up with the featured third grader five years later to show that her understanding was retained. This video sharply displays Common Core literacy standards, and shows how they can be reached deeply in an inquiry-oriented classroom with integrated arts. 

The Illuminating Standards Project

In the last two decades of the ‘standards movement’ in American public education, many educators have concluded that ‘teaching to the standards’ and project-based learning are incompatible. Ron Berger (Expeditionary Learning) and Steve Seidel (Harvard Graduate School of Education), co-directors of The Illuminating Standards Project, wondered if this conclusion was true. Indeed, they speculated that long-term, interdisciplinary, arts-infused, community-connected projects may well be one of the best ways to actually see what state standards look like when fully realized in the things students make in school—to make the standards visible. 

Three questions frame the work of The Illuminating Standards Project:
~ What does it look like when state standards are met with integrity, depth, and imagination?
~ How can we use standards to open up and enrich curriculum, rather than narrow and constrain it?
~ How can we use student work to raise the level of our understanding of standards and our dialogue about them?

The Videos

Collaborating with Berger and Seidel on The Illuminating Standards Project, over 30 students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have explored these questions by choosing projects from the Student Work Archive in the Center for Student Work and considering the ways in which those projects did—and didn’t—meet specific state standards. Further, they examined how the student work illuminated the standards—and vice versa. Many of those students created short films and 13 of those films are presented here.

We invite you to watch these films and we encourage you to use them as the catalyst for discussions with your colleagues about the relationship between your commitment to meet demanding state standards and approaches to designing powerful learning experiences for our students.


Transcript

- [Narrator] Despite a lifetime of the very best education,

- I will walk to

- students in our classrooms are failing to learn science. Many of these students will graduate from college with the same scientific misconceptions that they had on entering grade school. To test how a lifetime of education affects our understanding of science, we asked these recent graduates some simple questions in astronomy.

- Okay, I think the seasons happen because, as the Earth travels around the Sun, it gets nearer to the Sun, which produces warmer weather and gets farther away, which produces colder weather and hence the seasons.

- And it gets hotter when we get closer to the Sun and it gets colder when we get farther away from the Sun.

- [Narrator] These graduates, like many of us, think of the Earth’s orbit as a highly exaggerated ellipse, even though the Earth’s orbit is very nearly circular, with distance producing virtually no effect on the seasons. We carry with us the strong, incorrect belief that changing distance is responsible for the seasons. Regardless of their science education, 21 of the 23 randomly selected students, faculty and alumni of Harvard University revealed misconceptions when asked to explain either the seasons or the phases of the Moon.

- [Child] I can describe the relationship between scientific ideas or concepts using language that pertains to time, sequence and cause and effect.

- [Child] The half tilted towards the Sun gets more direct sunlight. The other half is tilted away and not getting direct sunlight, so it’s winter on that part. The Earth orbits around the Sun and the tilt doesn’t change. So, when the Earth orbits to the other side of the Sun, the southern hemisphere is now tilted towards the Sun and having summer, and the northern hemisphere is tilted away so it’s having winter. Spring is the transition from winter to summer so that part of the Earth starts to get a little more direct sunlight. Fall is the transition from summer to winter. The most important thing that causes the seasons is the tilt of the Earth.

- So, we worked with students just on looking, doing a lot of looking at the sky, looking at what’s going on in the world and using that to inspire questions. And so the students then created their own questions, but instead of deciding to do a video project, we thought that we could create a book by students for students that were frequently asked questions about space.

- [Child] I can write explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

- About early third graders, and a target I have I writing is I can answer a question clearly. So, what does it mean to be able to clearly answer a question? There’s a lot of parts to that. You, of course, need to be able to make a statement that kind of supports your main idea. You need to think about what it is that your reader needs to know to clearly understand the answer to your question. That might include details that support your main idea. That might include clarification of specific vocabulary terms and things that they need. So, the act of writing about it really forced them to think more clearly about it and to go deeper into the content.

- [Child] I can include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.

- [Jean] But, they also had to spend a lot of time on making a sketch that really explained the answer to their question, too. So, there was lots of drafts of that that helped them to kind of hone in more and more on their own understanding of the question.

- [Child] I can describe the relationship between scientific ideas or concepts using language that pertains to time, sequence and cause and effect.

- [Man] Kids had models, styrofoam balls on toothpicks and a flashlight and they had to demonstrate how it could be different, day right now and nighttime somewhere else.

- But, the second part of exhibition night, they were out in the lobby of the planetarium and had models, had diagrams, had the actual piece of writing that they wrote the page that went into the book and needed to be able to answer that question to people who came up to their tables. So, all of those things really worked together to drive students’ understanding of the answer to the question at the same time that it was driving their ability to write clearly.

- Like, up here, that will go for, like, a really long time without getting direct sunlight, and there’s also a part, like the equator that are always, that always have direct sunlight on them because it’s the warmest spot.

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