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Learning out of the Classroom

m.steinfeld's picture

When I ate lunch with the High School students at the Imagine Africa exhibit I asked them what they liked about it and I got rather short answers, nothing too detailed or informative. However when I went into the focus group on what we liked about the museum I saw the students light up. They were asked which exhibit they liked better, what other themes they wanted to see and suggestions of what else to put in the exhibit. While the Bryn Mawr students answered from a place of intense academic study and concern (due to our many hours in class discussing these issues, stereotypes and prejudices that can easily be spread to a less knowledgeable group, needless to say we had a lot to contribute) the High School students were not shy either. In fact they were the ones who had to be cut off eventually because the focus group was taking too long. I was wondering why did these students have so much to say now when they did not before? Why were they so eager to offer suggestions, most of which were incredibly similar to suggestions already made? I wondered how often someone they view as in charge asks them their opinion. I guessed not very often due to the testing nature of public education these days. It was nice to see these students articulate themselves and express what they felt. What was also interesting was their unwillingness to just shout things out. The women writing wanted them to yell out their thoughts but they all insisted on raising their hands and wouldn’t speak until called on. The structure of the classroom was brought to this setting and they could not break free of the standards. This shows the need to make classrooms more diverse in their teaching styles. While I like the fact that the students have learned how to be a student in a classroom they also need to learn how to step away from that even in environments that feel academic. This shows the need for more progressive education, like the field trip we went on with them.