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“These elements enable students to take all that they learn and use it with reverence and a sense of responsibility,” says Weil. Her institute offers the only master’s degrees in humane education that this approach requires, with complementary in-class and online programs for young people and adults. Her determined vision is slowly becoming a reality as teachers become familiar with these concepts and integrate them into hands-on, project-based learning that crosses disciplines and better marries school experiences with real-life lessons.


Make the Extraordinary Ordinary Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Seymour Papert, a renowned educator and computer scientist, has conducted in-depth research in how worthy real-world topics get students excited about what they learn. They increase their tendency to dig more deeply and expand their interest in a wide array of subjects as they better retain what they learn, become more confident in trusting their own judgment and make the connec- tions needed to broadly apply their knowledge. Young people learn how to collaborate and improve their social and group speaking skills, including with adults. According to Papert, project-based learning improves test scores and reduces absenteeism and disciplinary prob-





THE NEXT LEVEL W


Education for a More Sustainable World by Linda Sechrist


hat is the purpose of education?” That’s a question Zoe Weil frequently revisits with her workshop audiences. As co-founder and President of the


Institute for Humane Education (IHE), Weil has spent most of her adult life researching the answer. Her conclusion is that the U.S. Department of Education’s present goal of preparing graduates to “compete in the global economy” is far too myo- pic for our times. Weil’s firsthand research, which grounds her book, The


Power and Promise of Humane Education, has led her to for- ward the idea that the goal should be inspiring generations of “solutionaries” prepared to joyfully and enthusiastically meet the challenges of world problems. “I believe that it is incredibly irresponsible for America’s educators and policymakers not to provide people with the knowledge of interconnected global issues, plus the skills and tools to become creative problem solvers and motivated change makers in whatever fields they pursue,” saysWeil. Weil points to four primary elements that comprise a humane education: providing information about current issues in age-appropriate ways; fostering the Three C’s of curiosity, creativity and critical thinking; instilling the Three R’s of rever- ence, respect and responsibility; and ensuring access to both positive choices and the necessary tools for problem solving.


32 Chicago North & North Shore


We need to build cases for environmental protection around broad-based com- munity concerns like health, quality of life, the protection of watersheds and wildlife and the education of our chil- dren. Environmental issues are also social, economic and quality of life issues. Our challenge is to bring life-sustaining principles into creative thinking for the long view, rather than the short term.


~ Terry Tempest Williams


lems. “If schoolchildren are given the gift of exploration, society will benefit, both in practical and theoretical ways,” notes Papert.


Telling Transformation Papert’s observations were affirmed by middle school students


www.NAChicagoNorth.com


Zoe Weil portrait by Robert Shetterly


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