Connections

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“You probably aren’t going to realize it now, but you are going to have a greater impact on the kids now at the middle school level, then you would at the high school level,” the supervisor of the Secondary English department told me. 

“Yeah. Okay. I doubt it,” I said to myself. 

Who was I to listen to the supervisor of the ENGLISH department!? I’M NOT EVEN AN ENGLISH TEACHER! 

My first year in the district came and went and I enjoyed every minute of it. Here I am, completing my second year, and I now see what the supervisor was talking about. 

Why now am I seeing the changes in my students that I have hoped to see? Simply, it is because of the brain.

The brain is a very powerful organ that controls a person’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. The study of the brain is known as neurology, however, cognitive science is defined as “the interdisciplinary study of cognition. Cognition includes mental states and processes such as thinking, reasoning, remembering, language understanding and generation, visual and auditory perception, learning, consciousness, emotions, etc.” (Rapaport, 1996, p. 1). Within cognitive science are five mental representations that assist in the process of knowledge transfer within the brain. The five mental representations are: logic, rules, concepts, analogies/cases, and images. All mental representations can have a direct impact on the teaching and learning for individuals. 

The study of mental representations is crucial to understanding teaching and learning because learning is focused around how the mental representations work and affect learning. As educators, it is important for us to teach logic, rules, concepts, analogies/cases, and images, in order to better understand the content and the world around us. Without a strong understanding in the mental representations, students will not be able to see their education come full circle. 

However, I am a strong believer that the key to education is through interdisciplinary learning. If students are able to connect their content in one subject to another, and so on, the connection made will be that much greater. 

One of the main parts of the Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum is Textiles. Generally, the study of Textiles includes mathematics (measuring), however, as Perkins believes, learning is more effective when it incorporates the various content areas. One of the projects that I implemented in my classroom in the Fall was called “Patchwork of Kindness”. This project used the Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum and integrated Social Studies (history of quilting), Mathematics (measuring, creating patterns), and Language Arts (creating their own quilt story) . Students were able to get help from those three content area teachers in addition to the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher. Through this instructional strategy, students not only learned many different things to make the project more interesting, however, learning was also more effective because students saw how learning can connect, especially in the Family and Consumer Sciences classroom.

I have found with the implementation of the Common Core Standards, interdisciplinary learning is the key to success, however how do we as educators design lessons and unit with those goals in mind? Watch the video below to find the answers:

This class has made me more aware of my own teaching and learning style and how I can apply it to my work with my students. It is important for me to put my students as my top priority at all times and by keeping my students’ needs at the front of my mind at all times, my teaching and learning becomes that much more effective. 

References

Edutopia. (2012). Educator elena aguilar on how to teach interdisciplinary projects. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_cEcZeNxTY

And it all started with a Cheeseburger Happy Meal….

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The year was 1993. I was 4 years old. My Mom brought me to the mall to get shoes from Stride Rite and because I was such a good girl, my special treat for dinner was a McDonald’s Cheeseburger Happy Meal. As I sat there on the bench with my mom by the silk trees, I was the happiest little girl. My mom just bought me a new pair of shoes and my Happy Meal had exceeded my expectations! The onions on the cheeseburger made my mouth water as it was the most delicious cheeseburger I have ever had. The onions were cut just perfectly that the way they blended with the cheese was a complete palate pleaser.

Let’s fast-forward to the present- 2014. I am now 24 years old and that story is all true. It is insane to me that I can remember those exact details from when I was 4 years old. Why 20 years later, can I recall my experience having a McDonald’s Cheeseburger Happy Meal? One might say I was destined to work in the Food industry in one way or another, others might just say I’m a fat kid at heart who loves to eat. Whatever way you want to spin it, that is the real magic of the brain at work. 

Sheckley and Bell (2006) write, “The more repetitions we have of a change-of-a-body-state (COBS) experience and the more intense this COBS experience, the more likely the brain is to form a durable, fired-together-wired-together (FTWT) circuit to ‘remember’ the experience” (p. 43). Furthermore, Sheckley and Bell (2006) assert: “When durable FTWT circuits of a COBS event such as drinking coffee are formed, whether by constant repetition or by an intense COBS event, the brain includes within that circuit not only explicit associations but also a variety of implicit associations such as nuances in smell, variations in the color of the foam on top of the cup, or even subtleties associated with the brown-eyed person who waited on you. These implicit associations are stored as tacit knowledge. They add another layer to the FTWT neural circuit in the form of a general “sense” or “feel” of a coffee-drinking experience” (p. 44).

That is the power of the brain.

So now, as an educator, how do I make sure that my students are engaging in meaningful experiences that will be stored as tacit knowledge that they will carry with them 20 years down the road like I have?

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The answer is simple. Provide students with MEANINGFUL and ENGAGING experiences that they can make connections to. Sheckley and Bell (2006) state, “Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, stated that concepts (ideas) without percepts (experience-based consciousness) are empty percepts without concepts are blind. In other words, personal consciousness based only in COBS episodes is “blind” in that the extension of consciousness based only in COBS episodes is “blind” in that the extension of consciousnesses top include situations outside the realm of experience may not be apparent to some learners” (p. 47). I make it a point when I am teaching certain topics or vocabulary, that I always give an example that could directly relate to my students’ current life. I find that when I do that, my students are able to recall information quicker than they would if I did not give them that example. Another way that educators can make learning meaningful is through the actual learning activities they are doing in class. Rather than just having students copy down vocabulary, turn it into a scavenger hunt in your classroom. Do not be afraid to take advantage of the multiple intelligences! The more you use, the easier the learning will come for your students. 

Still need more help? Watch the video below to see some ways how math can be made more meaningful for students.

References

Edutopia. (2011). How to make math meaningful [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZaZGL-vP5E

Sheckley, B.G. & Bell, S. (2006). Experience, consciousness, and learning: Implications for instruction. New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, (110), 43-52. doi: 10.1002/ace.219