Reflections on “What Else Might Be Possible”

March 25, 2022

By Jaqueta Abbey, Teaching and Learning Specialist

When we dreamt up “What Else Might Be Possible?” for the theme of our March Institute, we hadn’t anticipated a late-winter snowstorm thwarting our plans to hold a session outdoors. But thanks to the last two years, teachers know how to adapt to a switch to online learning and in this new realm of possibility we still found amazing engagement.

After introducing ourselves, we dove right into Documenting History with First Person Accounts. This project is actually the foundation of our Real World History program in which high school students learn about the Great Migration and interview people who were part of the movement. The resulting interviews get archived at the D.C. Public Library!

During our Institute, we engaged with this activity by centering our questions and answers around what our lives looked like in March 2020. We followed up by discussing how an oral history project can be customized for various grade levels. Teachers came up with great ideas such as kindergartners drawing their answers and recording themselves talking about their work, or fourth graders making a narrated comic strip.

Our second activity consisted of an in-depth look at two Citizen Science projects: raising monarch butterflies and growing milkweed. Like many educators, I’m familiar with bringing caterpillars into the classroom to illustrate life cycles but I found it fascinating that the simple act of observation provided a jumping-off point for countless exercises and discussion topics for almost any discipline. A prime example of this was our conversation organically making its way from butterflies innately knowing how to migrate to marveling at how intergenerational trauma and resilience are passed on through DNA. Wow.

Jenna Fournel, our Director of Teaching and Learning, briefly shared about two more activities (embodying mathematical concepts through dancing and automatic writing) before things wound down. We wrapped up the Institute by going around and sharing what else each of us thought might be possible going forward. One teacher mentioned the possibility of bringing back legacy projects, and I could absolutely envision using one of these activities we explored to do that.

We’re in the home stretch of the 2021-2022 school year but there’s more than enough time to pump new energy into your classroom. We hope you continue to ask yourself “What else might be possible?” and embrace the surprises and new paths that are uncovered when you do!

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