October 2008 will go down in history as the month the United States government issued the biggest economic bail-out since the Great Depression; the final push in a presidential campaign that will forever alter the political landscape of our country and the first time Mercer Island high school students participated in a live video conference discussion with students throughout the country. Here are some examples of how MISD teachers extended their regular lesson plans to engage students in “real world learning.”
AP Economics teacher Kim Schjederup was working her way through her lesson plan covering “Measurement of Economic Performance” when the headlines highlighted another shift in the government’s bailout strategy; another downward spiral of the stock market and another economic crisis across the world that was far more critical to discuss than theory. So instead the students learned about credit default swaps (CDS), collaterized debt obligations (CDO), mortgage-backed securities, etc. and had lively conversations surrounding the current global situation,” said one student. “I have huge respect for real economists who actually understand all of this. We are learning the basics while being thrown into these major world problems. It’s incredibly challenging, but makes learning more interesting at the same time.”
Mock Elections and high tech tools extended learning about U.S and Washington state governments for students of all ages. High school students participated in a nationwide mock election sponsored by the Youth Leadership network. Before going to the “polls” on October 27, students viewed displays and learned about the issues from political party members and initiative backers. Special thanks to MIHS parent Sarah Waller for coordinating this huge effort. One freshman student said, ‘This was a great opportunity to get involved in the issues, to learn more about how our government works. I discussed the issues at home with my family and then voted on my own. It was not a class requirement, just something I wanted to do.”
7th Grade students studying Washington State discovered that learning about government could be fun. While creating group PowerPoint presentations, they taught each other about the three levels of government, how they relate to each other; how the President is elected; what taxes are used for. According to teacher Vicky Mann, “The prior knowledge for our students ranged from kids who had none whatsoever -having no idea what the federal government was and who was the head of it -to kids who were asking questions about why the Republicans can say they are for less government intervention when they want to control a woman’s right to choose!”
International Studies students discovered just how connected they are when they participated in a video conference on human trafficking and the sex trade put on by the Global Nomads group from New York city. Teacher Ed Puchalla was searching for opportunities to extend student learning about international issues when he came across the announcement from the Global Nomads group.
Thanks to the technical expertise of MISD staff Jennifer Wright and Mike Lein, students participated in this live discussion with students from Texas, Florida and South Carolina. Mr. Puchalla prepared his students by studying the issue in advance, knowing that they would be given the opportunity to ask questions in front of the “live” audience. ‘The big draw was to hear perspectives of students from other schools in other parts of the country; to hear the stories and insights of a survivor; and to hear and question “experts” who participated in the video conference,” said Puchalla. “I was really proud of my students for asking great questions. The real success of the videoconference was that it motivated students to learn more about the issue and to plan action projects such as a movie night and a YouTube educational video. All of the students are interested in doing this again.”
1st grade students understand the Electoral College. Kara Millsap, 1st grade teacher at Lakeridge elementary has managed to teach 1st graders the intricacies of the US presidential election process. She reports on November 5, “Yesterday I was actually able to meaningfully explain the Electoral College process to the 1st graders. We watched a “Brain Pop,” used the document camera to discuss a Weekly Reader together, and then used my computer to pull up an interactive map of the US with all the electoral votes listed for each state. This is technology at its best – helping me accomplish things I couldn’t do as well before.”
Just think what the world will be like when these students are in charge!