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21st Century Learning

June 16, 2015

One enjoyable aspect of my job is meeting with other museum educators for professional development. The last Lower Mainland Museum Educators’ meeting was about 21st Century Learning. We were treated to two interesting presentations and some delicious Japanese snacks at the Nikkei National Museum. The presentations that day got me musing about how we address this concept in our programming.

21st Century Learning is a common phrase in education these days. It is a broad concept that refers to a set of skills that include critical thinking, problem solving, digital literacy, and collaboration. The idea is that schools need to teach students not only reading, writing, and arithmetic (the three Rs) but also the skills to collaborate, communicate, and think critically. This webpage has some interesting thoughts on the topic.

The BC Ministry of Education is in the process of transforming the BC Curriculum to embrace 21st Century learning concepts. The changes are intended to allow teachers more flexibility – there will be fewer required learning outcomes per grade so that teachers can create units that include inquiry and personalized learning opportunities.

In informal learning environments (museums, interpretive centres, art galleries, zoos etc.) many educators already use inquiry methods to design programs that provide opportunities for students to experience place-based education and explore new ideas. We certainly do at the Discovery Centre. Now, more than ever, we want to provide programming that will help teachers meet the goals of the new curriculum. Towards that outcome, we have created the My River My Home activity kit to provide teachers with a free resource that can be used to design an inquiry unit about the Fraser River http://www.fraserriverdiscovery.org/MyRiverMyHome.

These students are learning about the water quality of the Fraser by taking a sample and testing it.

These students are learning about the water quality of the Fraser by taking a sample and testing it.

We are now reviewing and changing our other school programs to address the curriculum changes on the horizon. In particular, we are working on a new program about human history that will put students in the investigative driver’s seat. Three UBC teacher candidates who completed their field experience here in May helped to develop the new program outline. In the new program, Faces of the Fraser, students will investigate the significance of historical figures relating to main events in BC History that involve the Fraser River (Aboriginal culture, the Fur Trade, the Gold Rush, etc.). Students will be asked to piece together information about the character they can glean from artifacts and archival materials to determine that person’s historical significance. Faces of the Fraser will use some of the same information and objects used in our Trading Trail program currently, but will ask students to collaborate and think critically about the information they uncover about their character and then present their findings at the end of the program to build a chronology of BC history together. I am excited to see this project come together this summer. We hope to have it prepared for October when our school programs start up again for the next school year.

Here at the Fraser River Discovery Centre we are embracing 21st Century Learning in the programs we are creating and believe that our programming will help educators transition to the new curriculum when it is implemented.

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