Over the course of the semester I have learned that anything can be dehydrated. Anything. I have learned that one semester can give people a solid foundation in learning a foreign language. I watched as crafts and cooking brought families closer together. I was able to see young women grow physically stronger, and overcome obstacles in the process.
I was able to have a peek into the lives of my classmates. They have each chosen unique independent learning projects, and I have been able to follow along as they have delved into a variety of different subjects and activities. It has given me an appreciation of things I have never done before.
During my Independent Learning Project I revealed the bookworm side of myself to my classmates.
Photo CC – by Daniel Go
What I have learned
At the beginning of this project I had shared that I wanted to read books that made me think. I wanted to be stretched and encouraged. I wanted to read literature that would allow me to see the world differently.
In the past months I was able to do just those things. I read literature from France, England, Scotland, Canada, and the United States. All allowed me to see human nature through different time periods and cultures, and I was able to learn a few things in the process.
Human nature is the same everywhere, at all times.
I think that we often romanticize history. We make life seem simpler or harsher in the past than it is for us in the present. We reason that our lives are nothing like what other people have suffered. In some ways that is true because technology or forms of government are different, but for the majority of life, it is the same. Human nature does not change. People have always had within them the ability to exhibit great strength of character. Brutality has existed in every society through time. People who laugh together or cry together share a bond that ties them, even if they never share another moment like that again.
I learned that even when the values of a society are different, human character remains the same.
There is a dark side to human nature.
One reoccurring theme in my reading was slavery in the United States. I am not from the South, and my family immigrated to the Midwest from Europe after the Civil War. I have no ties to slavery that I am aware of. To be honest, the issues surrounding slavery in the United States was far removed from my thoughts, and seemed like something remote that happened long ago.
From reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin last summer, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl during the project, I saw a new side of the darker past of this country’s history. In Mark Twain’s works slavery is just a fact of life. I was impacted by the events in To Kill a Mockingbird and I have thought about the inequality present in the system that was built on the premise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all men. It was hard to see this side of reality.
There is always laughter to be found in life.
Even though there is hardship in life, there is joy to be found. There are good people who see the brighter side of life. Those who survive difficulties. People who see the funny side of circumstances and the joy of working hard. These stories communicate the lighter side of life.
Photo CC – by Nick Kenrick
I have lived vicariously through characters who exist as words on a page.
I have enjoyed it immensely. Having a project that I looked forward to working on each week was one of the highlights of this semester.
Using Independent Learning in the classroom
I will be using this type of self-directed learning in my classroom. I have learned so much about the characteristics of my classmates through watching them choose projects that reflected their interests and passions. I will be able to gain the same understanding of my students through this type of project. This will help me know how to create lessons and learning activities that will reflect my students’ interests and ability level.
I have also experienced for myself how passion based learning helps me to pursue topics I otherwise would leave alone. I think that through a personal learning project my students would also learn in ways that are new and challenging to them. They would grow beyond the bounds that would otherwise hold them – and they will be choosing how that growth will take place!
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Independent learning, be it a project for personal growth or to develop a new skill, is one way to get students to think deeper, try new things, and develop interest in the world. It will help students become who they are meant to be.