Mission Possible: Reimagining the 21st Century Classroom

Model Classroom 2012

Designing challenges for real-world learning

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Model Classroom Program

How can educators take learning outside the classroom and into the community and wider world? What strategies enable educators to successfully utilize 21st century skills and literacies, despite the challenges faced within schools? How can these educators create adaptable learning models?

A 1st grade class leaves school grounds to explore environmental issues surrounding their city’s water supply and local stream, then posts their findings online to raise community awareness. Students in rural Vermont get out into their community to document damage caused by Hurricane Irene, then capture these stories into a website and exhibit for their local history museum. These are just some examples of 21st century learning projects supported through the Model Classroom Program.

Since 2010, the Pearson Foundation's New Learning Institute has sponsored the Model Classroom Program: a program that works directly with Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) State Teacher of the Year alumni to implement projects with youth. The Model Classroom Program aims to create examples of best classroom practices, particularly in the creative application of new media tools and practices.

The program begins with professional development workshops at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. These workshops focus on 21st century learning practices, taking a hands-on approach which forces teachers outside the classroom walls and into authentic, real world learning experiences. Structured as a game, participating teachers collaborate to solve missions and challenges while utilizing community resources, new media tools, and each other. Throughout this active engagement, teachers develop solutions, then reflect on how their work process connects to 21st century learning opportunities for their own students.

At the conclusion of the summer workshop, participating teachers design projects and practices that are challenge-based, collaborative, and make the most of real world learning. Select projects are chosen for implementation and support from NLI. NLI staff provides support in developing curriculum, integrating the use of new media tools, and most importantly - ensuring that these projects challenge students to respond to real issues and have a voice within their schools and communities. Support is provided through the use of social networking communication and strategically planned school site visits.

During the 2011-2012 program year, NLI is supporting fourteen projects across the U.S. including: a marketing project encouraging students to use their school store to directly implement business ethics and responsibility, a high school engineering project that challenges students to develop solutions for environmental issues in their community, and a community based school-wide service learning project led and mentored by upper grade level students.

The Model Classroom program strives to create learning models of authentic, real world opportunities for youth to develop essential 21st century skills. Most importantly, Model Classroom teachers are advocates of new approaches to learning, and by developing successful strategies they help other educators adapt their work to their own schools and communities.