Last October, Lincoln County School District received news that they were awarded an Innovative Approaches to Literacy Grant to fund Project SEAL (Students Engaging in Authentic Literacy). Dr. Rowe and I, representing Oregon Sea Grant, are the evaluators for this project. What I enjoy most about working on the evaluation is that it continues to push my understanding of learning, focusing not only on museums but also on the classroom and continually thinking about bridging the gap between the two in new ways.
Project SEAL has so many components to it, including buying new ocean-related books for school libraries, stocking each library with a classroom set of handheld devices such as iPads, and family literacy nights. I am sure these will come up in future blog posts, but today I want to focus on the teacher professional development part of Project SEAL. On February 8th and 9th Project SEAL hosted a Model Classroom (modelclassroom.org) training for around 60 teachers, principals, and media assistants. The Model Classroom has “teachers participate in a set of missions that take them out into the community… [where they will] develop and document project ideas to take back to the classroom.”
We started the training at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the first mission was for teachers to go around the aquarium to look at exhibits and talk to people (anyone they could find including visitors, educators and volunteers) about a global issue that has a local impact. One group of teachers was contacting local grocery stores and talking to the aquarium gift store about plastic bags while another group was asking visitors questions like “what would you do if you found tsunami debris on the beach?” Yet another group ended up on a research vessel docked nearby. The second mission was to use their mobile devices to create a hook to draw their students into the topic, with an end goal of thinking of ways their students could use these devices to communicate ideas and projects from the field. One group of teachers used iMovie to create a trailer about picking up and properly reporting tsunami debris.
The second day of training was spent in a library of a local school. The day started with an in-depth conversation of what literacy was (when the teachers were in school) versus was literacy is now (in the 21st century). The Model Classroom leaders, project staff and I agreed this was a conversation we’d have to continually come back to because it is so BIG. For most of the rest of the day teachers divided into groups and explored the school, looking at different spaces and the learning opportunities that can occur. They took pictures, wrote descriptions and some groups came up with ideas for improvement.
Project SEAL is in its infancy but it’s such a wonderful project with so many key components. Keep your eyes out for future posts with the ongoing evaluation and tools developed. In the meantime, learn more about Project SEAL and read the teacher’s blog posts at https://sites.google.com/site/oregontestsite/home.