I once again decided that I needed to refine my blog and sort the authentic project ideas out by academic subject area. Having been posting on this blog for over two years, it is becoming hard for even me to find what I wrote on certain topics.
So, I started to sort the posts out by reading, writing, math, science, social studies… And after about ten posts I realized I was posting every post under every academic subject area. That is actually the point of authentic learning and using authentic projects to teach. Teaching in isolation is isolating – that was profound! Learning reverts to rote and meaningless – information to be accumulated to finish a worksheet, write a report, or memorized to pass a test.
When learning authentically, the subjects should be integrated. Yes, a math teacher is responsible for teaching math, but by making it real and making it count, you are also teaching reading, writing, science… And your lessons are meaningful to the student, and will be internalized.
In a way, the teachers in one-room schoolhouses of the past had a huge advantage as they naturally had to teach this way. Across all the academic subjects, across grade levels, with limited access to text books, and no worksheets. Yes, they did a lot of drilling that we don’t have to do today because children don’t need to memorize, they need to learn how to access information. Access that wasn’t available in a one-room schoolhouse. There was no internet, there were no calculators. But there also were no monstrous curriculums that needed to be covered with far too much information and far too little time. They had the same students for years on end, they got to know their students, and they had no choice but to make it real and make it count. It was a matter of survival, not a matter of a child passing some exam at the end of the year that had little to do with what mattered to them and their lives.
Yes, I am looking at one-room schoolhouses with rose-colored glasses. And yes, some teachers got paid in apples and horses – probably not the preference of most teachers today. (I won’t even comment on the out-house at the side of the one-room schoolhouse pictured above – thank you modern conveniences!) But there are some interesting authentic lessons to learn by looking back to the past.