Creating Powerful Lessons

If you were given the seating layout of an aeroplane and had to decide the seating arrangement of passengers who are going on board, how would you arrange them knowing that a few of them have recently travelled to countries that had just experience a deadly outbreak? What if some of them were showing mild to extreme symptoms but you’re not in the position to diagnose, just to arrange the seating? How would you place them knowing there are children, elderly people and pregnant women on the plane and that seats are limited? Give your reasoning.*

This was one of the activity we crafted for a larger geography project for lower secondary to see how our students would use relative location within a given context. Relative location is one of the basic skills of navigation in geography. There is no right answer to where the passengers could sit. Behind of, in front of, to the left of, to the right of somebody or something is acceptable. Knowing that the students could use relative location to place the passengers shows that they understand the basic concept and could apply the skill. However, the context of learning is also important. Where would they place the “sick passengers” in relative to the healthy ones and what are the reasons? How do they discuss the placement within their team and agree on a seating arrangement? How do our students show empathy? **

This project was created to use basic geography skills to analyse disease outbreaks, how human travels help spread diseases over the years, the outbreak patterns on the world map and prediction of the next outbreak using geographical skills that are all part of the national syllabus (direction, bearing, relative location, latitude, longitude, sketch maps). It also helps students to understand issues in a global context, how outbreaks affect people especially the ones living in poverty and without healthcare, how outbreaks are handled by different countries – the rich and the poor, how climate change, our actions and our lack of awareness and education contribute to it.

It’s beyond geography. It’s valued. It’s caring. It’s global citizenship. It’s a shared responsibility. It’s one of the many teaching materials that we have created to ensure that teaching and learning in the classroom are meaningful. Didn’t we create a curriculum that would prepare our kids to one day solve real problems? Why can’t one day be today? What’s stopping us from putting the curriculum to test?

While the world continues to be increasingly interconnected, it also feels like it’s getting more polarized than ever. There are still human rights violations, inequality in gender, race and communities and poverty almost everywhere in the world. How do we prepare our children for the ever-changing challenging world?

We believe that lesson plans – if properly and strategically planned, can be extremely powerful. Learning about the ice age does not only tell you how the world was in the last epochs but also makes us think about how today, we are our climate gods and goddesses. We are capable of controlling the climate with our actions but could we control the climate for good? Learning about squares, square roots and square cubes can get students to think about how we use our space for agriculture to increase production for the rising population. Is vertical farming the solution? Can we reach zero hunger? Learning about Indian civilization and how Ashoka changed after the Kalinga war where more than 100,000 people died could get our students to think about the cost of peace. How many should die before it’s too many? What would it take to declare war? What would it take to stop one?

From the New Zealand shooting to the Sri Lanka attacks to the most recent one in North Carolina, how can we create powerful lessons to show that whatever we’re learning in the classroom today could solve these problems. How can we speak about it in the classroom without it being completely separated from the curriculum of Math, Science, languages and the social sciences and at the same time discuss our students’ values and views. Could we talk about how our DNA are 99.9% similar and being a supremacist of any race or religion is delusion? Could we talk about how we use math to look at data on how we engage on social media or if there is a correlation between video games and real life violence? Is the narrative still true if we crunch the numbers?*** How can we make sure the tragedy of Sungai Kim Kim will never be repeated by the kids we have in schools today? How can we create an assessment that looks at transformative behaviour, beyond academic achievements?

You may not be a teacher, but most of you are experts in your fields or are passionate about something. So, what issues would you want our kids to discuss/solve in the classroom and how would it relate to what they’re learning? It could be the attempted coup in Venezuela, it could be about the debate around Caster Semenya, it could be about flat earthers or even the fate of Kampung Baru. All of it fits in the curriculum and could help enrich the learning of our students. If you had a classroom and could teach any subject, how would you teach it?

We’d love to hear back from the people on the net.

*In case you were wondering, no, not allowing them on the plane is not an option for this particular activity.

** Research has shown that there is very little risk of any communicable disease being transmitted onboard an aircraft (WHO)

***No correlation between video games and real life violence

Our team recently ran a session for teachers on how to teach controversial issues in the classroom.