Get out into the Real World...Often

This week I was reminded of how important real world experience is, and not just for our children.  I took my 8th grade students on a field trip to the kick off for the annual Editorial Cartoonists Convention at the Library of Congress. We didn't know this was such a big deal; we originally wanted to see the political cartoon exhibit on the Presidential Election 2012 that is available to the public there.  We just happened to show up on this auspicious day.

Ink and Pixel Panel

Not only were my students exposed to excellent political cartoons, they also got to experience a lively, intelligent but civil debate, and were able to participate in a Q&A with some of the leading editorial cartoonists today.  The panel of cartoonists consisted of two who represented ideals from the left and two representing those of the right (and each one to varying degrees).  My students got a history lesson, a civics and politics lesson, a lesson about following one's passion (not the crowd's), and sage advice to become as informed citizens as they can possibly become.

Thanks so much to (from left to right, literally!) Ted Rall of the Los Angeles Times; Lalo Alcaraz of Pocho.com; Steve Kelley of the New Orleans Time Picayune;  Scott Stantis of the Chicago Tribune, and the Library of Congress.

I am so lucky to be at a school that values field education as a primary avenue to learning.  Our philosophy is that doing is learning.  It shouldn't be that way though; all schools should embrace this ideal, because test taking is not learning.  Although we are fortunate to live in a city where many of our educational experiences are all free (Smithsonian and National Museums galore), we teachers are also creative in the ways we think about how to get our students doing and experiencing things. 

Learning by doing does not have to involve going out to a fancy lecture or museum.  Teachers can create an experiential adventure inside their classrooms.  We take our kids outside to, literally, smell the roses.  We make maps and solve historical problems, we invite speakers into our classes to discuss, demonstrate and experiment with our students, we read and solve real-world math and science problems.  Sometimes, we step outside to count cars on our overcrowded highways (yes, our students will solve the beltway congestion problem some day).

My students' learning experiences are also mine, though.  I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to take part in this editorial cartoonists convention.  In what other profession can people learn and experience the world with others every single day?  Well, I'm sure there are others, but this teacher loves the opportunity to learn about the world with her class every day.

Politcal Cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, commemorating the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

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