Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Experiential Learning

Jose Can You See?
Originally uploaded by taylorkoa22.
Last week, one of my many reads posted about a Spanish teacher at Olentangy Liberty High School in Powell, Ohio, who has her students role play as immigrants from Central or South America. I can't remember which Virginia-based blogger brought the article to my attention, but, if memory serves me, the blogger took offense.

I don't.

Okay, certainly the project isn't traditional, but it is educational and it is learning based on experience. In some ways, it reminds me of the blue eyes and everybody else experience which helps students learn about racism.

This is extraordinary teaching on the part of Erica Vieyra, a Spanish teacher at Olentangy Liberty High School.

From Holly Zachariah's article in the Columbus Dispatch:
The students had to go to real businesses and ask for Spanish-language job applications. They had to visit a bank and ask for new-account documents written in Spanish.

Vieyra promised them that the process -- even in make-believe -- would frustrate them. But they would gain, she hoped, an understanding of what is one of the most important political and humanitarian issues facing the U.S. government today.

After three weeks of work, the students presented their projects yesterday and discussed their conclusions. Most said it was a grueling experience to even pretend to walk in an immigrant's shoes.

"I can't begin to fathom how they can survive here," said Yana Lyon, 17. "Everywhere you turn if you try to become legal or help yourself, there's a roadblock."
I suspect that ten or twenty years from now Ms. Lyon and Ms. Vieyra's other students will likely not remember much in the way of speaking and reading Spanish... but they will remember what they learned through this project.

I wish all teachers were so creative in their facilitating learning.

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