Students as Producers
For the 2018-2019 year, students at Baldwin Middle School were tasked with making a difference in the world through a new collaborative interdisciplinary project that was aligned to the curriculum. Through the “Better World Day” project, the entire 7th and 8th grade classes endeavored to answer thought-provoking questions developed by the district’s department supervisors and faculty that covered themes across the four core subject areas of math, science, social studies and English language arts (ELA).
“Better World Day” Betters Student Learning
The Better World Day project requires students to think critically and contribute to solving local and global problems by conducting research and evaluating different perspectives to support their position. By allowing the students to be the producer of their own work instead of simply listening to a teacher lecture during class, they will have a deeper understanding of what they learned. In fact, research shows that students who engage in challenging, exciting, and meaningful work learn much more effectively and have a greater chance to succeed in school as well as outside the classroom. The project aims to improve critical thinking skills, among other key competencies needed for college and career readiness.
“The Better World Day projects allowed students to use their knowledge of curricula and skills learned to begin answering real world issues, such as climate change and social society,” said Mr. Anthony Mignella, assistant superintendent of instruction. “I would like to thank the staff and students for their hard work and innovative approach to authentic learning.”
Thriving as Producers
The Better World Day project was divided into two inquires—one that focused on math and science, while the other concentrated on the area of the humanities for ELA and social studies. Harnessing essential skills, such as critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, each student completed an AP style thesis paper, along with a group presentation for both inquiries.
To thoroughly answer the questions, which encompassed “can humans stop or reverse climate change?” for math/science or STEM, and “what does it take to be a J.U.S.T. person,” for the humanities, the students divided into groups and conducted research through multiple venues of credible sources, including interviewing a Holocaust survivor. Students had the freedom to select the method of communicating their findings.
The thesis project concluded with student-led #BetterWorldDay STEM and Humanity Evenings divided between the two grades to showcase their research findings through podcasts, “Ted Talks,” websites, just to name a few. Attended by parents, faculty, and administrators, the response to these interactive evenings was overwhelming. After a select few students introduced the event in the auditorium, everyone proceeded into the “Exhibit Hall” with a list of suggested questions to ask each group. In addition, a table featuring various QR codes allowed attendees to participate in the advocacy work by allowing them to read more about the issues.
“It was exciting to be able to see how topics across different subject areas connected to one another,” said a student at Baldwin Middle School.
Another middle schooler added, “The thinking challenged us, but in the end the work was well worth it.”
Don’t miss next year’s Better World Day Evenings, starting in the spring of 2020.