by Monica Snellings
Middle school teacher, Sean Felix was enthusiastic about using our lesson, My Future Self, with his incoming 6th graders all of whom would be brand new to the Burke community. Edmund Burke School is a progressive, urban, co-ed college prep school for grades 6-12 in Washington, DC.
Sean felt that it would be a great way to start the year. And he anticipated that the combination of learning to do research along with the students imagining their own futures would make for an especially rich experience for them. He noted thoughtfully that forward-thinking is difficult for kids at this age, “and just telling them to set goals for the future is a lost cause.” This lesson might overcome those obstacles.
Kids are eager to time travel and almost always choose (when asked) to go back in time. Going forward is a scary thought but we pretty much know what happened way back when. 1
Would My Future Self make the future more concrete and tangible for students?
DK and I were about to find out as we traveled to Washington DC on October 3rd to see the students final presentations.
Co-teachers Sean Felix and Sarah Schriber, as well as school librarian, Amanda Bozarth had been working with the students since the lesson started. Each student had chosen 3 people they admired and then researched their lives. They usually came from history but maybe they were someone in their own family or someone well-known today. The students chose their fathers, mothers and siblings: athletes, dancers, entertainer,; scientists, businessmen, and authors. This included people from chairman and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Shultz to Green Day drummer Tre Cool.
When DK and I arrived by Metro at 8:00 AM (wow, that was early!) there was already a flurry of activity and nervous energy in the room. Students were putting finishing touches on their timelines and completing their packets.
Each student was given a few minutes to present a summary of their research findings. And then the teachers asked each student to tell us how these people related to their future. They were in other words thrust in the scary unknown.
Jeremy researched Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax, mythbuster Adam Savage, and John Flanagan, author of the Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherhood Chronicles series. He picked them because he wanted to know what inspired their dreams. And he hoped to discover, in his research, what their lives were like beyond their fame and glory – their real lives.
Clad in a Nationals’ T-shirt, Jeremy was obviously a baseball fan. He told us the story of Koufax sitting out the opening game of the 1965 World Series because it was Yom Kippur. What did he learn from this? That if you are different, you just put it out there. He noted that all three of the people he chose had careers that he might want to follow.
Julia researched Walt Disney, Milton Hershey of Hershey chocolate fame, and author Shel Silverstein. She found out that all 3 were all creative people that wanted to make other people happy. Julia sees herself as a creator and wants to be a poet when she grows up.
Natalie researched President Abraham Lincoln, Microsoft's Bill Gates and director, screen writer and producer Andrew Stanton who won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Finding Nemo—her all time favorite movie.
How do these three people relate to Natalie's future? She said they were all smart, intelligent, very nice people who achieved a lot by managing their money well and by being good at their jobs. She aspires be like them.
Inquiring Minds asked Sean Felix for some afterthoughts.
Would you present our lesson, My Future Self, again?
I would absolutely present it again! I think it makes sense for kids, especially at this age, to be able to look at themselves in relation to people that have come before them, and may have guided their actions. It’s a really good way for them to begin articulating who they are and hope to become. We’ve done projects like this in the past but that involved maps, or masks. This was a great way to do the same type of activity but also add in a research component.
What would you do differently the next time?
Sean: I would allow for more time, both in class and outside of class. I don’t think I gave the students enough time to really reflect on their lives before they started searching for and researching the timelines.
Were there any unexpected insights from the students? Did they surprise you?
I don’t think there were any unexpected insights, however for some of them I was surprised at their candor, and what they revealed about themselves throughout the project. I think having them reveal themselves before the class helped created a communal bond within the classroom.
We are eager to see the Next Time MindLibs you handed out to the students.
I'll send you the feedback forms the kids filled out very soon.
Great! And we’ll post their responses here. We can’t wait to see what the kids have to say. Every time we ask students for feedback we learn something new!
To read more about lessons we've developed, search 'lesson' below.
Interested in presenting My Future Self in your classroom? Please check out Lab Shop and/or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.