Friday, June 4, 2010

Promotion of Learning Beyond School

The other night I was invited to attend the New Milford Girl Scouts Awards Ceremony as a "dignitary".  As I sat there and listened to the accomplishments of each Troop I was amazed by the service and authentic learning experiences these girls were being exposed to.  Their intrinsic motivation to give back to the community and others was inspiring.  I quickly realized that the only true dignitaries in the room were the girls being recognized for their incredible accomplishments.  The following is an excerpt from the program detailing the Silver Award winning project of Troop 58 (the majority of the girls in this Troop are NMHS students):

Textbooks can tell you facts, but it takes people to make history come alive. After meeting with members of the New Milford Historical Society, the girls of Troop 58 began to realize how important it is to hear about our past from the people who actually experienced it. New Milford is an awesome place to live, and the girls decided that they wanted a permanent record of what life was like in our town. Thus our New Milford Oral History Project began. During the process, the girls researched the town history and learned about the American Memories Oral History Project run by the Smithsonian. They generated interview questions, met with members of the New Milford Senior Citizen Center, transcribed the interviews and also created four videos that captured the memories of New Milford residents. These were then donated to the New Milford Historical Society for inclusion in their archives. Not only did the girls learn fascinating tidbits about the “Brown Bomber, a bus service in Hackensack, The Ames Brothers, boat traffic on the Hackensack River and rhubarb farms, but they also had the satisfaction of being part of preserving New Milford’s history for future generations!
All I can say is WOW!  As an administrator I place an emphasis on my teachers utilizing authentic instructional techniques and train them on the associated pedagogical aspects.  This project, combined with a service component, resulted in a powerful learning experience.  When it was my turn to speak, I spoke about the significance of this type of learning experience outside of school and emphasized how authentic it was.  In particular, I discussed the attributes of effective authentic learning experiences evident in the project.  These included:

1. Relevant and meaningful to the learner
2. Real-world connection
3. Collaborative
4. Identified audience
5. Open-ended
6. Defined roles

Not to be forgotten in all of this was the effective integration of technology on behalf of the students under the guidance of the troop leaders.  They used iPods with recording devices for the interviews and iMovie on Mac Books to create the videos.  Does it get any better than this?  A love for learning and commitment to community service are two values that will lead students down a path of success.  Examples like this motivate me to become a better administrator and make me so proud to be the Principal of New Milford High School.  As I always say, my students ROCK!


  1. After collaborating this year with teachers on the #edchat and #musedchat, I am totally sold on the idea of authentic assessment in my music performance classes by using composition. Having students compose original music, first starting simple in primary grades and moving up into more complex skills and their proficiency on their instrument increases, is a powerful tool. It incorporates everything they know about music in one activity.

    My classes for next year are going to have composition assignments for each quarter, some of which will incorporate music notation and sequencing software and also Web 2.0 applications.

  2. This comment comes via Jennifer Wei: Very cool project for budding historians! Relevant content and great integration of technology. Besides encouraging other young people to record more oral histories, it sounds like the collection of oral histories could be a great resource for student research, especially when classes are focusing on state or local history. (from @explorehistory, at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)

  3. I really like your description of the authentic learning that was experienced by the Girl Scouts, and it's great that it included a technological element. I am about to publish my current blog entry titled, "Is technology the be-all and end-all?" and I haven't yet written the conclusion; however, I share the opinion that there are other crucial skills beyond technology. I plan to quote your list of attributes that constitute authentic learning experiences to accompany my list of what I think are crucial: socialization, communication, , time management and critical thinking.