A Myth to Bust: Students Don't Do Real Work in School





















A common myth about education is that students can't or shouldn't do real work in school.  Let me tell you a short story and then quote a real student as she reflects on her experience.

In 2008, Matt Diller, a third grade teacher at The College School, became interested in renewable energy.  He shared some of his research with a group of sixth graders.  The students became more than interested.  They were determined to act.  Over the next several months, they researched wind turbines, sourced a plausible turbine for installation at the school, advocated for its construction before the school board and then the municipal authorities, assisted in raising the funds for the project, and, finally, realized the construction of a vertical axis, Windspire turbine at their school.

A year later, one of the then seventh graders, (now a sophomore in high school), reflected on the students' experience and presented her thoughts to a group of over 200 adults representing both public and independent schools and programs gathered in St. Louis for a conference on Sustainability Education.  The title of the conference: The Necessary Revolution from the book by the same title, by Peter Senge, who was the keynote speaker.

Here is the end of Annalise’s 5 minute speech:

Let me ask you a question: How many of you have stood before a roomful of people around my age and said something like this to them: You are our country’s future...You are the future of this world.

Well, I have heard this phrase countless times.  Here, today, at this conference, I come before you to say that I disagree with statements like this.  I am not the future of this country.  We are not the future of this world.  The time for my generation to step forward and lead is not in the future....because I don’t believe that this world can wait for me or my generation to grow up.  With problems like global warming facing us, I am convinced that my time to dream, that my time to act, that my time to create a new, sustainable world is not in the future...it’s right now.

In order for us to even have a future we have to be willing to listen to our experiences, to dream together, and to support one another’s visions; whether that dream or vision comes from a business owner, the founder of a school, a third grade teacher, or from a group of hard working seventh grade students who can see that the future is now.

I understand that global warming is a dire issue.  It is projects like these that help us take steps toward a more sustainable world.

On behalf of those seventh graders, on behalf of my generation, thank you for creating a space for us to join in this urgent conversation.

Every time I listen to Annalise’s speech I get a catch in my throat.  To so many of us the issues of sustainability are incomprehensible, overwhelming, and/or hopeless.  It is compelling to hear a 13 year articulate her vision and action so clearly and with such conviction.

Since the wind turbine, many more projects have been initiated and developed by the students at both The College School and just down the street at Maplewood Richmond Heights School District.  At our Myth Busters Seminar, on April 19th and 20th, participants will witness engaged, high achieving students in action, learning and working toward a healthy, hopeful future.  Please join us in this vital conversation.

For more information and to register, email Ashley Cadwell.