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REAL WORLD LEARNING |
ILLUSTRATIONS

Quarterly learning plan
Met Learning Cycle
Interest exploration
Internship products
Making Academics Come Alive
Summer journals

See also related student and staff commentary

Reflection and
Accountability

Voice and
Agency

Sustained
Relationships
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1.0    Sample quarterly learning plan

Click here for full plan in PDF format

2.0    Met Learning Cycle


Graphic by Rachel Brian

3.0   Prompts for interest exploration

The following activity is from The Big Picture’s Advisor Guide 2: Learning and Interest Exploration—part of the many materials Big Picture has produced for others wanting to start schools with the same philosophy as The Met. Advisor Guide 2 includes an array of tools to help students identify and combine interests with internships.

Activities

Here are some activities to do with your advisory, small groups or for individual students to learn more about what interests them and what opportunities are available in the community.

Conduct Peer Interviews
Break into pairs and interview advisory members about interests.

Interview Older Students
Find students with similar interests to yours and interview them about how they pursued their interests in school.

Write a Journal Entry
Make a list of your favorite things to do—look for common themes.

Explore the Classifieds
Look through the want ads. Do any jobs seem interesting to you?

Search the Mentor Database
Search the mentor database for interesting types of work.

Do an Internet Search
What types of websites interest you the most?

Read a Biography or Autobiography
Choose a book about someone who interests you. How did they pursue their passions?

Look Through a College Catalog
What courses look interesting to you?

Look Through the Yellow Pages
What businesses or organizations would you like to explore?

Talk to Your Family
What are their interests/hobbies? What did you like to do when you were younger? What skills do they think you have?

Go to a Bookstore
Find three books that interest you. Write down the name, author and topic—these might be new areas to explore. Look through a magazine rack to see if anything interests you.

Walk Around Your Neighborhood
Break into pairs in advisory. Walk around and write down all the organizations you see that interest you. What else do you notice that is interesting to you?

Interest Inventories
These are short activities that help students determine their learning styles, interests and strengths.

#1: Self-Assessment
#2: Self-Evaluation of Skills and Abilities
#3: Your World Needs Your Love
#4: Who Am I?
#5: Ability Inventory
#6: Vocational Interests
#7: Vocational Values

4.0   Internship work products

In 2001-2002, 167 businesses and organizations served as LTI (Learning Through Internship) sites for Met students. Students spend a minimum of two days a week at a worksite, with a mentor, and develop an in-depth project that they work on at the LTI site and back at school. The concrete products students develop as part of their internships yield useful information or new resources for the sponsoring organization: a laminated card with the phone numbers of crisis service providers that city police officers can carry in their wallet, research findings on eelgrass in Narragansett Bay, a minority index to state census figures. As the following examples show, Met students often leave their mark through publications—especially aimed at other teens.



As part of her internship at Prevent Child Abuse RI, tenth grader Carleen helped create a newsletter targeted at teen parents. Click here for sample newsletter in PDF format.

Takesha, through her work at Planned Parenthood and Youth in Action of Providence, prepared a 23-page handbook for teens that mixes straightforward information on birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and depression with student poetry. Click here for handbook in PDF format.

5.0   Making academics come alive

The following excerpts from Eliot Levine’s One Kid at a Time (Teacher's College Press, 2002) show some of the ways Met advisors and mentors connect academics with student interests and internships.

Reading

   “I knew I could draw Cesar into reading The Rape of Nanking,” Hal says. “It was the vivid descriptions of violence that hooked him, but what he learned was far deeper than that. He was very absorbed with the violence in his own neighborhood, and I wanted him to understand similar problems at other times and places in history. I also knew it would pique his intellectual curiosity, which is one of his great assets.”

* * *

   Miguel’s LTI mentor recommended The Red Badge of Courage, which helped the ninth grader become a more thoughtful and engaged reader. “It took me a while to read it,” Miguel says, “because the last time I read a book was four years ago. After a few chapters, I got so used to reading that the words started flowing like I was saying it out loud. At the end of the book, I got so depressed and mad. I couldn’t believe that Henry died. After all that, he died. I even read the last few chapters a second time to make sure I didn’t miss something, like maybe he didn’t really die. It took me so long to realize that the book actually related to me. Just like kids here in Providence, Henry went through so much to be a man just to end up dying so quick at an early age. When the book was over, I didn’t want it to end. I’ve been looking at other books like mysteries and things to read over the summer.”

Writing

   Tamika’s advisor remembers that “when she first came to the Met, she spoke in slang all the time. I helped her realize that she knew African-American English, but that she also had to master a second language—standard English. That’s something I didn’t figure out until I got to college. I had her read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. She barely understood a word, because of the distinctions between different dialects. Then she did a glossary of slang terms and redefined them in standard English. So she’d write sentences like ‘That’s a bangin’ hat you’re wearing’ and I’d challenge her to rewrite it as ‘That’s an attractive hat you’re wearing’ or something like that. It made her aware that there are other words to use, and at the same time she was having fun and building self-confidence.”

* * *

   Met students write papers, project proposals, self-evaluations, journals, 75-page autobiographies, and more. ...“It’s about finding subject matter they’re excited about and helping them express it,” one advisor said. “Journals are pretty much sacred ground, so I don’t make any corrections. But for other types of writing students do lots of drafts, and that’s where I comment on grammar, punctuation, clarity, and all that. One student’s college essay sounded like a thesaurus, so I helped him cut back on five-syllable words and find his own voice. Another student had great ideas but a jumbled way of expressing them, so we worked on that.”

Math and science

   Julia’s mentor was concerned that Julia hadn’t studied chemistry: “It was a dilemma, because she lacked essential knowledge for working in a lab, and I didn’t know if I’d have the time to teach her.” The mentor laid out what Julia needed to know, and then Julia learned it back at school with her advisor’s guidance. Soon she was mixing solutions, doing tissue cultures, and designing a project to infect liver cells with retroviruses and examine the impact on antigen expression. Rather than following the learning sequence of a conventional textbook, Julia studied the specific topics and techniques that she needed for her project.

* * *

   Kiyo’s interest in marine biology led to an LTI with the Narragansett Bay Commission. His project was part of an initiative to monitor the bay’s water quality in order to guide public policy and raise public awareness. If they find that high phosphate levels correlate with reduced flounder catches, for example, new legislation might regulate fertilizer use by farms in the watershed. To guide his hypotheses, Kiyo studied how pollution, population growth, and the advent of water treatment had affected water quality. His mentor, a biologist, taught him basic lab skills for drawing and analyzing water samples. With the resulting data, Kiyo helped to create a more accurate profile of water quality in the bay.

Empirical reasoning

    Brenda did her LTI with a Providence police officer, and her main project was to help the department improve relations with teenagers. (She also spent time in a squad car and responded to everything from domestic disputes to homicides.) With help from a Brown University sociologist, she developed a survey and gathered responses from the 120 students in high school classrooms. Two of her findings contradicted the police department’s prevailing beliefs: First, many students reported positive attitudes toward the police; and second, students reported that their contacts with police occurred more often in schools and community centers than on the streets. Based on these findings, Brenda’s final report challenged the department’s emphasis on community policing as the best way to improve relations with teenagers. She suggested that the police should increase their positive presence in schools and community centers instead.

6.0   Summer journals

The Met seeks out summer opportunities for all of its students, often far from home. It draws upon its own networks, along with a national foundation called Summer Search, which selects students for program scholarships for two consecutive summers. Some Met students study on a college campus (e.g. Barnard, Syracuse) or in the field (e.g., Caicos Islands, the Navajo Reservation). Others head outdoors (e.g., to Outward Bound programs across the country, wilderness expeditions in Arizona), work as counselors in special summer camps (e.g., for children with HIV), or join leadership programs for teens (e.g., Camp Anytown).

Back at school, through essays and photographs, students share what they learned.

“...I was able to do some serious studying, and reflect a lot about how I live back at home. This is where I figured out what I mention earlier in the essay, the so-called ‘revelation.’ I was walking down a dust road in Potrero to see if they had any salad yet at ‘Las Brisas,’ when I noticed how quickly I was walking. ‘Why am I rushing?’ I asked myself, ‘where is it that I have to be?’ It was like a ton of bricks for me to think about this, where did I ever have to be that was so damn important. At that moment, (sorry if this is getting too ‘spiritual’) I was walking right past this really cool colored lizard, and I stopped to examine it. What a cool lizard it was too; it really made me think. ‘I wonder what kind of cool stuff is back home that I never take the time to appreciate.’ I love times like those, because not only do they make you think whatever your revelation was, but they give your brain a kick-start, a serious kick-start, like jumper cables from a Mac truck.” Jesse (Costa Rica)

“...In Colorado I had some moments that I’m never going to forget about. I will always remember the day I arrived in the airport and met all the people who were going to be in my group and as I looked toward my group my eyes did not see no other shades of color than white. As I looked at all the people different types of feelings were going through my mind about whether I would fit in or I would have any conflict with them because I am a city kid who is black and not as wealthy as they are.” Derek (Colorado)

“...[In Alaska] I wore sunglasses because the sun was so bright it reflected onto the ice and made everything light up. The sky was nice and blue and my adrenalin was pumping as I was climbing up the ice. Climbing up the ice with the ice pick was something I will never forget because I am the only person in my neighborhood that can say I have been to Alaska and climbed a glacier.
...I stayed in a Native American village called Gulkana... Some of the things I saw while I was there were how to gut, cut and smoke fish and how they make some of their foods like porridge, fried salmon and grilled moose. The Natives were making necklaces, singing and dancing. One important thing I noticed while I was in Alaska was about the kids in the village. It felt like they did not care about their culture, but the kids that just moved to Gulkana wanted to learn as much as they could”. Derek (Alaska)

“...We saw the most amazing sites in the world and grew as Jews through different spiritual experiences that they planned for us throughout the trip. Our counselors arranged for us to have a service in the ancient synagogue on top of Mount Massada...The ruins on top of the mountain are from an ancient village that the Jews built to keep themselves from Roman capture... The sunrise on Massada is one of the most beautiful sights in the world.” David (Israel)

“...Another incredible experience happened during the middle of the course when we were on a 150 ft. schooner for a week. It was like being back in time. It took the whole crew to lift the massive sails. After the group learned how to sail the huge boat, the Outward Bound instructors gave us a chance to run the boat by ourselves, at night. Again, we got up in shifts and rotated jobs. For a while I would be the navigator, then the bow watch, then the person who steers the boat. It was mind boggling to think that a bunch of teenagers were running a 150 ft. sailboat without any problems. It made me feel proud, proud of myself and my group.” Jason (Maine)

“...[One] resort [we visited] was very isolated, about ten miles from the center of Puerto Viejo which is basically one main street. We drove down a very long windy road that took us deep into the jungle. Our room was just a large cabin with screens for walls. It had a bathroom, running water, and a shower, and was exposed to the rainforest on all sides. This enabled you to be aware of the surroundings at all times. At night all of the insects make quite an assortment of strange and loud noises and were all over the outside of our screen. Some even got inside our room - including many katydids and a good sized tarantula! The coolest part was that there were paths through the lush greenery of the jungle that led straight to the beach. The pristine beach was fringed with the incredibly dense rainforest and stretched on for miles completely undisturbed by human presence.” Colin (Costa Rica)

“...A major highlight of my last few months in Japan was when I joined a street performance group. It was called Daidengaku, which means ‘big street festival.’ There were different groups with different parts that you could join, but my host suggested I do dancing so I did. The instructor pushed us really hard that day, but I was in shape due to Karate so it wasn’t so bad...The day of the event is still vivid in my mind. Dressed in traditional Japanese clothing, walking down a long road, wearing a large hat that covered my face, I thought about what I was doing and realized how amazing it was that I was a part of this....When I returned home, a lot of people said that I had changed and I seemed so different. In some ways I don’t think I changed much, but I think I’ve become more the person I want to be.” Chris (Japan)

“...Here is a Puerto Rican/Guatemalan kid who grew up around Boricuas (full blooded Puerto Ricans) his whole life who dislikes any Dominicans that they might encounter, but here I was friends with almost every boy in that neighborhood. Every day when I would step outside there would be a group of boys outside playing hacky sack and I would join them and that’s how we became boys. Man, I miss them.” Juan (Dominican Republic)

Note: In the summer of 2001, one Met student and his father, a Vietnam veteran, traveled together to Vietnam. Among their stops was a museum that documented the war from the Vietnamese perspective.

“ ...That museum had a profound effect on my father and I. I think we both left there and felt very guilty. I know I felt that way because I am an American and in a sense I felt guilty and ashamed that I am American. I can’t imagine how my father felt knowing that some of his fellow soldiers committed some of those horrific acts. Part of me felt that those were some really serious accusations of torture and didn’t want to believe it. My dad was quite upset that it was a one-sided story from the Vietnamese perspective. I tried to make him understand that of course they would portray it in that way, just like a lot of our documentaries portray just the American side of the war. I came to the conclusion that night while laying in bed that war isn’t a pretty thing and that a lot of horrible things happen, but when it comes down to it, the guilt always lies equally in the hands of both sides. No country is innocent in war.” Joe (Vietnam)

Reflection and
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Sustained
Relationships

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