All Sides of an integrative curriculum…taking a second look

Since we’re on the topic of what an integrative curriculum would look like; I draw attention to another article featured in the Thursday, April 26th edition of the Chicago Trib, Cabrini school closed, but lessons live on.

  • Detail: 16 fifth graders engage in Project Citizen, a social justice project with their teacher Brian Schultz. Students respond to the question What problem would you like to fix? The most pressing issue was the deplorable condition of their school.
  • Situation: Schultz and his students seizes the opportunity to make a difference in their learning environment. Though eventually the school closed, the kids learned lessons that changed their lives.

The project focused on problem-based learning. These kids and their teacher charged to improve the quality of their school environment using a variety of methods including statistics and constitutional law; quite impressive to get fifth graders involved to this degree. According to he article, the kids charted temperature fluctuations in their classrooms. They photographed bullet holes and bugs in the bathrooms. They penned letters to politicians and journalists. They launched a web-site and made a video documentary.

Though the article highlights the impact Project Citizen on the lives of these fifth graders, it’s also a demonstrates how one creative teacher with an entrepreneurial vision draws out the best from his students.

Framing the agenda for youth entrepreneurship education requires a critical kook at educational reform. A lot of emphasis is placed on standardized testing as a benchmark to gauge student achievement. Tests do not guarantee that kids will leave school with the skill sets to function critically and/or creatively in the innovative/global economy.

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Designing an integrative curriculum

Survey findings indicate 82% of respondents support a curriculum with a “real-world” focus, a curriculum that is problem-based and integrative. Let me see, what would such a curriculum look like? Good question – let’s turn to our educators and read what they wrote.

In their own words:

  • I believe a town meeting and getting the media involved to advertise the new direction the schools, especially the high schools would be taking for this a basic undermining of the old classic liberal arts education. However, this would be one option for a student. Those who chose to study the ‘classics’ and to enter college through the traditional curriculum could still do so, if that is what was required by those particular institutions of higher learning.
  • Convince teachers, administrators, and parents that the ability to apply learned skills in academic areas is essential to success in life. That there is more than one way to succeed, that a four year degree is not the answer for all students.
  • Allow entrepreneurship classes to take the place of a core academic class in meeting state and university graduation requirements.
  • How can we do high school classes that help student’s meet high school requirements? We know that integrated curriculum is much more effective then silo education (i.e. separate math, science, English) but graduation requirements are based on this traditional way of looking at education. We need to be supporting integrated curriculum and allow for non traditional ways of meeting graduation requirements.

This integrative curriculum, what would it look like? Recently I began reading the paper with an entrepreneurial vision focusing on features related to education. Last week in the Chicago Tribune articles seemed to jump off the page. Applying an entrepreneurial vision to curriculum design and instruction – the outcome: an integrative curriculum.

Let me highlight a couple of the articles:

Friday, April 27 – Class caters to healthy life –Charter school gets lesson on how to revamp lunch menus and eating habits.

  • IN BRIEF: Jean Saunders, an advocate from Healthy Foods Campaign and Noble Network for improved nutrition and environmental health in Chicago Public Schools spent a day in a 9th grade English class at Pritzker College Prep.
  • SITUATION: Hands-on demo cooking green tomatoes, adding food facts into a discussion about “To Kill a Mockingbird”

What’s taking place in the English Class at Prizker College Prep? Taking a closer look at the core content: literature, economics and politics of food, health and food science, chemistry of food, history, ethics and character building.

Saunders’ lesson included:

  • a discussion of what people ate during the Great Depression, comparing and contrasting with what people eat today;
  • people living off the land, the agrarian culture of growing the food locally, today children eat food processed and boxed;
  • the price, availability and benefits of healthy food
  • food substance and fat content

Sounds very engaging and I am sure the kids will remember Jean Saunders. Pushing the entrepreneurial envelope further — extending the reach beyond the classroom and really thinking outside the box. What are some actions kids can take? It’s an opportunity – moving beyond jumping through hoops – What if….

  • the English class (teacher and students) connected with the social science teacher and a few entrepreneurs in the Restaurant business and/or Whole Foods and launched a health food cafe (one or two days a week).
  • the kids connected with local farmers, or Chicago Green Drinks or the Foresight Design Initiative and worked at community gardening. A great way to get parents involved. Chicago takes pride in moving to become one of the greenest cities in the country. What an example to set —- working with kids in the classroom.
  • The kids worked as teams to develop a business plan for promoting healthy or green products or services in the school or local community. They could ask the math teacher to help them with their financial statements — start-up costs, and sales projection. The Life Science teacher would help kids frame the scientific method to solving problem(s) within the local community.

There are a lot of possibilities here — for a class, better still, a school to cater to a healthy life.

Entrepreneurship and Education Reform

Framing a Youth Entrepreneurship Education Agenda presses forward, the first point draws the attention on all sides, state and district-wide, classroom and communities. The second talking point, education reform draws from entrepreneurial thinking and strategic planning. Survey respondents identified key areas in need of reform: rethinking mandates of standardized testing, and the design and implementation of an integrative curriculum.

Three respondents — in their OWN WORDS: Standardized Testing and AYPs

  • Stop having teachers teach to “the test.” My 10 year old daughter does not receive real life, problem solving situations where she forced to use her talents of creativity. At this point in time she is taught to recognize what will be on “the test.”
  • Get rid of the current framework of the ISAT. This test quashes innovative, creative, and therefore, potentially entrepreneurial thinking and achievement.
  • Too many graduation requirements and not enough time for electives; teaching to the PSAE Test
  • At this time, all electives are in a “survival mode.” With many schools not making AYP [adequate yearly progress], districts are focusing only on core academics and are not interested in adding and/or sustaining any course that does not actualize the increase of academic achievement in the cores. Therefore, adding entrepreneurship education is going to be a tough sell. Increased graduation requirements and double dosing are robbing students of elective opportunities.

Speaking of AYP and standardized testing, in Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune (4/25) featured HS District 218 (Oak Lawn, located southwest of Chicago) and its 10 day intensive drill preparing students for state tests and the ACT. Headline reads:

Lesson Plans taking back seat to exams –A high school forgoes curriculum for 10-day intensive drills aimed at preparing students for a battery of state tests, college entrance exam” – Difficult call to make for district and school administrators. Students and teachers are pressured to demonstrate adequate progress. A lot of time is put into teaching kids how to take standardized tests. Policy makers set the standards, educators lose control over the delivery of services. Other viable alternatives? I think so.

An agenda for youth entrepreneurship education

The results are out — the YEE survey respondents received the executive summary highlighting the findings, a % breakdown for each question including strategies and best practices. More than 30% of the respondents provided additional strategies to advance entrepreneurship education. Overall this was a great response. What the “best practice” list lacked, educators filled in. Creating an awareness — in economic terms –creating a demand for youth entrepreneurship education moves the agenda forward.

Moving towards framing an Agenda

1. Increasing public awareness at the state level, district-wide, in classroom and communities

A consensus among YEE survey respondents indicated the need to increase public awareness on all levels: working with state legislators who set the agenda for state appropriations on funding for education. Legislation, at the state-level, mandates what constitutes a college prep curriculum. Many of the respondents implied — a college prep curriculum must be revisited so it reflects greater relevancy to the demands of a global and innovative economy.

One respondent wrote: If you want educators to be involved in entrepreneurship, then you must have it start from the top down. What I mean by that is to have the legislators fund entrepreneurship classes at the middle and high school. Then, you need to get the Superintendent/Principals of the local schools to bring in the programs to their schools.”

YEE survey respondents (82%) identified the connection between classroom and the business community key for advancing entrepreneurship education. The business communities need to make a solid case for entrepreneurship education. Entrepreneurs play a critical role a key creating value in local and global economies. As one respondent stated:The business community needs to be more vocal and proactive in support of this idea.”

A number of individuals (10) stated “Get the following on board”: superintendents, board members, administrators, principals and curriculum designers, guidance counselors and faculty. One respondent wrote: Support from the school or district administration would be needed to make the change in curriculum work, to be committed to it, and to get the school board involved as well.”

NEXT: agenda building continues – what educators said about school reform and entrepreneurship.

to be continued….

Drawing Conclusions – Youth Entrepreneurship Education (YEE)

Where do we go from here? The survey results have been tabulated, conclusions drawn and distributed to more than 85 educators of IL. The instrument identified barriers of access to youth entrepreneurship education. Barriers include:

  • the lack of a precise definition to what constitutes YEE;
  • the disconnect between what is taught in the high school classroom and the skill sets kids need to function in an innovation economy;
  • the mandates at the federal and state level to demonstrate academic achievement;
  • the lack of funding and state appropriations, teacher training and entrepreneurship resources;
  • the overload of college prep courses in the high school curriculum.

Among those 125 educators who took the survey, youth entrepreneurship education creates value both in schools and in neighborhoods. If a program or school is to be successful it needs the support at different levels – legislature (state, city/municipal, and school districts) and the business community must be involved. Internal to the school environment, departments can no longer function with a silo mentality. The school functions as an eco-system and it needs the support system in place so that it can thrive and provide a dynamic learning environment for our children. Entrepreneurship education provides a framework for this to happen.

The classroom teacher as entrepreneur … a daring thought

Education and reform….

I can count on one hand the times I have read or heard about entrepreneurship education in mainstream media. The crisis of education, NCLB (No child left behind) legislation, standardized testing, violence in the classroom, school funding…on and on and on. Yes, there is a consensus — Overall the current K-12 education is in need of reform.

Education and Innovation

Education reform doesn’t occur in a vacuum there are hundreds of programs, projects and initiatives taking place throughout the country. It’s an exciting and challenging time to be in the field of education. It’s fertile ground for innovation and creativity in teaching methods and delivering educational services and processes.

Teachers as agents of change

I wonder how many teachers consider themselves entrepreneurs? … a daring thought. Let me unpack that idea — How many teachers are entrepreneurial in their approach to education/teaching? I don’t think its something we think about very often? Our educational lexicon contains words like curriculum and development, pedagogy, learning standards, rubrics, outcomes, Master Teacher, Bloom’s Taxomony, experiential learning, ESL, early childhood development, etc – Educators have a working knowledge of these concepts. I continue to search out the lexicons with the word entrepreneur or entrepreneurship, I haven’t found one yet. Okay, so I am stretching the definition … really thinking outside the box

Let’s take a closer look – if you’re in the field of education and you’re reading this posting – Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial in your approach to teaching? How do educators describe their role and responsibilities as a classroom teacher? My primary role as educator is to create an environment which engages and animates students in their learning process. To keep kids actively engaged requires using tools and strategies that are youth-friendly. Learning is about wonder, discovery, creativity, team work, collaboration and thinking critically. I ask the question — how can I bring “real world experiences” into the classroom? It requires thinking entrepreneurially… seeing possibilities, reaching out into the community, building bridges. The teacher as agent of change, working to accelerate innovation and creating value in the community.

So, what is entrepreneurship education?

In an earlier post (April 5-your click counts) the numbers indicated educators are not on the same page with youth entrepreneurship education.

So, what are the components, the context for youth entrepreneurship education? The survey highlighted key areas: integrated curriculum (Q3), structured learning environments (Q2), strong connection with the community at large, mentoring (Q7), innovative thinking (Q6), creativity and risk assessment (Q4).

In “YOUTH ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Theory, Practice and Field Development” a background paper prepared by John Cleveland, Richard Anderson, Sarah Anderson and Peter Plastrick, youth entrepreneurship is defined “Youth entrepreneurship involves the development of entrepreneurial attitudes, skills and opportunities for young people, from middle school through young adulthood (e.g. 25 yrs old).” In that same paper the authors define entrepreneurship education as “the use of a structured learning environment and support tools” fostering skills development enabling individuals to become entrepreneurs.

The Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education defines it in these words: “Entrepreneurship education seeks to prepare people, especially youth to be responsible, enterprising individuals who become entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial thinkers and contribute to economic development and sustainable communities.”

As a secondary educator that definition resonates with my experience working with youth. I give a resounding yes, entrepreneurship education teaches students self reliance; survey respondents also agreed (see below):

Q4 Entrepreneurship education teaches students to increase their self reliance.

Agree (4) and Strongly Agree (5)

  • (4) 18%, (5) 64% – Elementary Educators
  • (4) 31%, (5) 62% – HS Educators – Instructors
  • (4) 75%, (5) 25% – HS Educators – non Instructors
  • (4) 20%, (5) 60% – College/University Educators