The refrigerator door

Gary Stager has a beautiful article in the current issue of Creative Educator, celebrating the “genius of print” and the “beauty and value of paper.” Especially as the year ends and kids take work home in bulging bagfuls, it gives me hope. The high-tech-heads in education are not forgetting the heirloom quality of student work–the kind children and families can hold in their hands, page through with grandparents or younger siblings, display on the refrigerator door.

Stager writes:

As teachers, we often promote the idea that process is more important than the end product, yet it is often the product itself that provides context and motivates students to learn.

And he emphasizes the quality of the work:

While every project may not generate an objet d’art, we should assume that every project we undertake has the potential to do so.

In a related earlier article, he advocates raising the bar for student projects, to include the highest standard of all: Does the project have a chance of enduring? Like Ron Berger in his classic An Ethic of Excellence, Stager wants a set of goals in which teachers and students embrace “the aesthetic of an artist or critic.”

It’s easy, Stager warns, to get distracted by the technology, forgetting about whether the work lives up to its larger purpose. His goal for a successful project: We just can’t bear to take it off the refrigerator door.

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One thought on “The refrigerator door

  1. After spending a quarter of the year on a student-driven science inquiry, my class was finally ready to present to an audience. We set up the tables in the school theater in a horseshoe shape with cardboard footprints taped to the floor so that visitors would know what direction to walk around the horseshoe. The students came in that morning completely psyched to share their learning. This was no ordinary science fair– it was far more. Each student had spent hours, mostly at school, deeply absorbed in their own pursuit after an extensive study the quarter before on the Chesapeake Bay. They came in with models, science experiments tricked out with homemade ring stands and watersheds made from plastic sweater boxes. Everything was owned by the students. It was truly their work, their thinking, their research. This was not your typical stand-in-front-of-the-classroom oral presentation either. We had parents, several interested classrooms, a marine biologist, a small film crew from National Geographic, and a host of other visitors who had come to find out what the students had found out. Their words and ideas were being truly valued and even examined. As a result, the students were able to present many times. They had to answer many questions posed by the curious that probed their learning. They had to really USE THEIR BRAINS! It was an exciting day. When we talk about valuing student work, we (all of us fellow learners) are elevating what has been done to accomplish this. It makes the learning more relevant and authentic and most importantly, unforgetable. Isn’t that what school is supposed to be about?

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