Practicing to be a TLC student leads to learning and questions

I am very intrigued by Steve Goldberg’s use of Google Earth for education and empathy.  Yesterday he posted A typical morning at TLC middle school.  For context, here’s what Steve predicts a day might look like at his school, opening in fall of 2013 in North Carolina:

In the spirit of learning by doing, I thought I’d practice being a student at Triangle Learning Community middle school and follow the typical morning plan for the Morning News Discussion…with a Synergy twist. In Synergy, we wanted to work in ripples – local, national, and international. I gave myself the 45 minutes to read and investigate. This 45-minute exercise turned into the entire two hours! It is the most concentrated news reading I have done in a while!

I started with the AJC to read and learn more about Atlanta. The article Three options for the ‘Gulch’ caught my attention. I noticed the “Gulch” just last week. I used Google Earth to see the area. I immediately thought of how to use the map view in 6th grade math when we teach the area and perimeter of “funny shapes.”

I was intrigued by the vocabulary and meaning of “multimodal passenger terminal” because I have just been reading about how car-oriented Atlanta is which can be frustrating for cyclists. The search for multimodal passenger terminal lead me to’s Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal page.  I did not know Atlanta was planning to have a street car.  I also did not know about Bikes and Bites on July 21.  Bikes and Bites is billed as a car free initiative during Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week where Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) are encouraging diners to ride their bikes to dinner at more than 20 Downtown restaurants.  What positive environmental outcomes are predicted?  Wow!  Bo’s Whatever It Is I Think I See Becomes a PBL to Me! is so true!

I read and researched and connected these ideas for quite a bit of time.  I wanted to “go global” with my news reading too.  I returned to A typical morning at TLC middle school. After watching the video again and reading the linked article about child brides in Niger, I wondered what the headlines were from the paper in Niger.  Did they have a daily paper? I found Le Républicain Niger using Newspaper Map, a new-to-me resource suggested by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. Thankfully, Newspaper Map would translate this newspaper into English (from French) so I could read the headlines.  Talk about a lesson in perspective!  Not one mention of the plight of child brides, the hunger crisis, rapid population growth or infant mortality in the headlines of Le Républicain Niger.

How often do we not see problems in our own community?  How can we find (do we seek) new perspectives to see and observe what is happening in our neighborhoods and larger communities?


  1. The fact that there was no mention in the “local” paper about any of the myriad of crises in Niger caused me to ask myself questions about perspective and teaching. How do I gain perspective to “see better” for my learners? What am I not seeing in my classroom that is a “local” learning crisis for one or more children.


  2. I’m so glad I started my day reading this post! I read Bo’s PBL post some time ago and it’s great to tie that to a deliberate, inquiry-based, day-long example of the method.

    Teachers have “professional development days” in which they work without their students. What if kids were given “inquiry development days” in which they did not meet with their assigned teachers? We have these of course, but not for the specific purpose of reflection, inquiry, synthesis, and action…hmmmmm.


    • Thanks! I like the idea of connecting LEAP to Inquiry Development Days. I think Steve’s idea of concentrated reading/exploring with Google Earth and then pitching topics to be discussed would be great with the 8th graders. Often I think we don’t know what we are interested in because of a lack of awareness. This goes directly to the Observation Journals we used in Synergy. What do you know/observe about the world? What questions do you have? What questions do others have? What interests do you have in common?

      I also like Steve’s idea as a first step to brainstorming PBL. Often teachers ask me to help them find “a PBL” to teach “X” when we should be looking for our content in the problems we find. As LAL likes to say, we want our discipline to serve the problem, not the problem to serve our subject matter. I wonder if faculty spent a couple of hours reading/exploring, how much math, English, history, language, etc. they would find. I think it takes practice to “see” content in real problems. Wouldn’t it be great if we would take the time to exercise this skill?


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