Ripe Opportunity: Connect Project, Disciplines and Purpose

This week, iDiploma visited Ponce City Market, a mixed-use development recently erected in a historic building in Atlanta. We spent time using observation tools developed by both the Stanford and design researchers to capture what we were learning. About two hours into the experience, one student casually revealed to me that she had “done a presentation” on Ponce about two months ago. After much interrogation, I discovered that for history, she was tasked to find a building that had significant historic meaning and has recently become repurposed. She and her classmates were to research the space and share their findings to the class. She shared this with me as she meticulously sketched some of the architecture and seating she noticed after we wrapped up a conversation about how space impacts the way people interact. It blew me away that she never even visited Ponce (which she said was “pretty cool”), even during her work on this project, and could not recall much more than a fact or two about the historical transformation. I am not in any way faulting her. In fact, I am sympathetic toward this student. What context did she have to put this particular location on her radar? What would possibly motivate her to truly learn and know about the space, the history or its transformation? Clearly not much. And I am not faulting the teacher, either. As someone who taught in an English classroom for a decade, I can identify with projects like these. I even give kudos to the teacher for thinking “how can I relate history to what these kids know in their current world?” YES. I love that. What I do fault is our education system. Because we have a particular schedule that asks us to meet with six distinct classes in a day and only teach one subject in that class period…because we have a host of learning outcomes that are heavily rooted in content coverage we are required to hit…because we still think of ourselves as “English” teachers or “history” teachers or “math” teachers instead of facilitators of learning…because we think sitting in a classroom for a certain amount of hours in a semester is more important than the learning that happens over time…because we are stuck putting bandaids on an educational system that is hemorrhaging, we are forced to create projects that- as creative and engaging as they are – don’t provide our students with enough context and relevance to actually matter. What if that project were connected to the work iDiploma is doing with this new space? Would this student remember more about Ponce? Would she feel more proud about what she was discovering about this space? Would she feel compelled to simply visit the space? Just to capture pictures and explore?

Sometimes I just wish we could slow down and stop trying to cram so much information into our classes. What if we could spend more time to be explorers of our own cities and use that as a catalyst for a history lesson? But wait, that has to happen in a sixty minute block from 1:15-2:15 and then we have to get back for English class…



One thought on “Ripe Opportunity: Connect Project, Disciplines and Purpose

  1. Personally, I really loved the pictures of our experience that you included in the post, but more importantly, I loved how you linked the experience back to our failing education system.


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