From the Principal's Office: Authentic Learning Can't Be Standardized

From the Principal's Office: Authentic Learning Can't Be Standardized

This year’s Holocaust Study Tour took place from April 1 through 14. I am proud to say that this unparalleled learning experience, under the direction of Colleen Tambuscio, has taken place for the last twelve years at NMHS. Students that participate in this experience travel to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic as they learn firsthand about one of the most traumatic events in human history. The trip involved twelve NMHS students, two students from Midland Park High School (NJ), and nine students from Bishop O’Dowd High School (CA). Once again they recorded their daily journey on the trip blog. Please visit the blog for an in-depth look at the dedicated students who participated in HST 2013 as they reflect upon what they learned.

Some of this year’s highlights include the following:

  • In Prague the group once again met with Pavel Stransky who inspired them with his story of survival and took them to Theresienstadt, where he worked as a teacher during the Holocaust, and where he married his girlfriend Vera in order to stay together when they were sent to Auschwitz. For the entire day our students asked him questions, and learned from his experiences as they visited the Theresienstadt ghetto and prison. Pavel’s story of survival, which he calls his Holocaust love story, means so much to group because they know the kind, sweet man who experienced this horrible moment in history. For a more detailed synopsis check out Day 5 from the trip blog.
  • This year the group had the opportunity to stop in the town of Lostice on their way to Olomouc. Lostice is a town of about 3,000 people. In Lostice, they were met by the town historian and Director of the Respect and Tolerance program, Ludek Stipel. Mr. Stipel took the group to the former Lostice synagogue and gave them the history of the Jews in Lostice. They had an incredible opportunity to learn how they utilize this former synagogue as an education center. Our students were engaged in an innovative approach to Holocaust education by viewing these boxes, which included documentation of survivors from Lostice and the surrounding towns. For a more detailed synopsis check out Day 8 from the trip blog.
  • In Trsice, through the support of the U.S. Commission for America’s Heritage Abroad, the group was able to dedicate a second memorial to the Wolf family, which honors the rescuers of this community. The dedication was another opportunity for students to witness history in the making. An article appeared in the Global Post, which highlighted this portion of our trip.

Technology has enabled all stakeholders to become a part of this authentic learning experience. More importantly, however, is the apparent fact that this type of learning experience cannot be replicated in the classroom. Before, during, and after the trip students engage in authentic learning elements while enhancing essential skill sets such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, media/digital literacy, and global awareness. The culminating learning activity is the ultimate creative artifact where students compile everything they learned into a book and documentary using Adobe tools. This is followed by a public presentation to the New Milford community and program donors. Learning beyond the walls of a school can and often does leave a lasting impact on our students and will never be able to be measured by a standardized test.

cross-posted on A Principal's Reflections

Eric Sheninger is a NASSP Digital Principal Award winner (2012), PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient (2012), winner of Learning Forward's Excellence in Professional Practice Award (2012) and co-author of Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals and What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science. He presents and speaks nationally to assist other school leaders in effectively using technology. His blog, A Principal's Reflections, was selected as Best School Administrator Blog in 2011 by Edublogs.