“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
I came across this quote from 20th-century American education theorist John Dewey in my research regarding education standards. I have already heard multiple references to different education approaches this summer, including a few that particularly stand out in regard to teaching and evaluating student learning: Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Project-Based Learning.
Both the Common Core Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards amount to state-led efforts to provide clear and consistent frameworks for evaluating teaching and student learning in preparation for entry into college and the workforce. Common Core Standards cover only English-language arts and math, while the Next Generation Science Standards focus on science and engineering. Together, the standards can be thought of as the “what” in education.
Conversely, Project-Based Learning can been seen as an option for “how” to achieve the “what.” Project-Based Learning provides structure for in-class experience-based learning teaching techniques—put simply, it is learning by doing. With roots in the work of experience-based learning pioneers John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Jean Piaget, Project-Based Learning seeks to put students at the forefront of their own learning.
In my research, I could not help but admire the work that the Project WET Foundation has done to reach the forefront of innovative education content, skill, and process. Project WET emphasizes process- and science-based approaches to learning about water. This is exemplified well in our up-coming Kids In Discovery series (KIDs) activity booklet on Urban Waters. The Urban Waters KIDs book has been on Project WET’s agenda for a few years now, but the 2008 recession halted its development due to lack of available funding. However, it did not take long for Project WET President and CEO, Dennis Nelson to recognize my summer internship as an opportunity to revisit the Urban Waters KIDs book. Although it tends to take about a year from the start of a KIDs book to its first publication, the thought is for me to work on “getting the ball rolling” on the publication. And I am thrilled to be working on it!
So what will a KIDs book on Urban Waters look like? The goal of the publication is to provide young people with a source of insight and inspiration regarding water management in a city. With this in mind, Dennis provided me with a list of preliminary topics the book could cover, a blank 16-page booklet, and a green light to begin brainstorming. I was pleased to discover Project WET tends to do visual brainstorming and outlining, so for the past few days I have been alternating between research and sketching potential spreads for an Urban Waters KIDs book. Topics range from a city’s water address and source water, to water recycling and municipal water challenges.
I’ve also enjoyed sketching ideas for the layouts of the cover and different spreads. Each spread spans two adjacent pages in the booklet and covers a single over-arching topic. So far, I have a rough cover image and spread for an urban waters historical timeline, water users in the city, and the urban water cycle. Although Project WET’s illustrator will take care of the imagery in the actual KIDs booklet, it does help to have a rough visual from the start to spark discussion about the basic concepts and flow between topics and spreads.
My undergraduate thesis for Oregon State’s University Honors College focused on early childhood environmental education. Thus, it has not come as a surprise to me that putting together a KIDs book is nowhere near as simple and easy as it may seem at first glance. Not only do KIDs books cover in-depth scientific knowledge about all things water, they do so in a way accessible to young people and accompanied by demonstrative illustrations and activities. To put something scientific at the reading and comprehension level of an 8-12 year old means the writer must thoroughly understand the topic themselves, from the most basic underlying assumptions to the general concepts and specific details. It almost makes writing a book for adults seem like a simple and easy alternative!
P.S. The images in this post are from Hyalite Reservoir, where my family and friends spent the 4th of July weekend!