Explosive Learning: Week 2 at Burke

Our time thus far at the Burke has been special and we have learned so much about the role Dreamporte can play in a classroom. Ms. Rodny has taken over for Carly and has brought her experience and expertise to our lessons. She has done great work and given valuable feedback that we are using to shape Dreamporte.

 

On Monday we ran our lesson on volcanoes and earthquakes, making some alterations to better use our resources in the art room. After an opening discussion and watching videos of volcanos and earthquakes, which lead to great questions about why natural disasters happen, the students made their own volcanoes out of cardboard. The kids were all involved and making their own modifications. In fact, they were so enthusiastic that they decided to keep working on the lesson on Tuesday as well.

 

While have learned how valuable of a tool this is in the hands of curious kids, we have also learned a lot about how to make Dreamporte better from its shortcomings. The first issue with our summer program thus far has been technical. The phones, while they have been useful and work well enough, do not fit perfectly in the goggles. Thankfully, this is fixable. We can adjust the headsets for now and get different phones for the next classroom.

 

The second thing we can strive to improve is making the material immediately relevant for the students. The way we connect large, global concepts have to directly relate to them if we expect them to become invested. Alisa did a good job explaining what this clear relevance would look like and helped us reshape a final chapter on pollution that connects litter in Dorchester to melting glaciers in China and global warming. It should be a fun couple of lessons next week.

 

We’ve learned so much from working with these amazing educators and students at Burke. This pilot has inspired us to learn more from as many educators as we can to make Dreamporte an even more effective and accessible tool. If you are an educator, we would love to talk to you about what your think about the program, how you plan lessons, etc.. Contact Caleb Johnson at calebjohnson@college.harvard.edu if you would like to contribute to the conversation on how we could work better.

One Week Down

Midway through July, our first week of sessions at Burke has come to a close. It has been a blast going to Burke and seeing how well Carly (a substitute teacher who often works at Burke) worked with the students using our program. The kids have already shown us in surveys and in reactions that virtual reality has a place in the classroom.

On Monday we started our time at Burke with a lesson on land biomes. The kids loved using the VR sets and the lesson as a whole. One student in particular, who Carly said was usually quiet, was very involved in the discussion and activities. That was great to see.

Our second course of the week, which ran on Thursday, was about marine biomes. We ran multiple stations where students watched videos and considered questions about their VR experience and hypothesized possible answers. And while surveys are a good way to know the VR is effective which we are doing for each lesson, we found that hearing kids gasp at a quickly approaching great white shark is equally effective.

The kids weren’t the only ones learning. Our team here at Dreamporte has learned plenty about how to plant our program at new schools. We have been around to help with any technical difficulties there were and observe Dreamporte in motion, but Carly has been running the show. After reading through our curriculum with her, we made a few minor changes that she thought would make the material more conveyable to the students. For example, we made sure to implement more moving and drawing for our lesson on Thursday. We are learning the importance of flexibility in our curriculum and have found that what we have written is already fairly flexible.

This week we expect the return of the full-time teacher, Alisa, but are expecting to still see Carly in the classroom helping out as well. It should be another good week with plenty to learn from. Stay tuned.

Summer Begins!

Summer is upon us. The weather is beautiful, the days are long, and we are as busy as ever here at Dreamporte. While school may be out for summer (cue Alice Cooper), educators and students across Boston are still out there learning in all sorts of summer classes and camps. In the midst of the summer school whirlwind, we have managed to land a perfect spot in Burke High School’s PULSE program

Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester is an exceptional place and a perfect spot to launch our newly written curriculum. Burke was the first school in the state to pull itself out of “Turnaround status”. It has a 98% minority enrollment and 80% of the students are given federal aid for lunches. It should be perfect for us. We have the opportunity to provide the experience of being anywhere in the world to motivated students who have not gone these places.

The PULSE program, which we are working with specifically, works with rising 10th graders who did not meet the MCAS standard. Our summer curriculum – which is based on environmental awareness – will be taught by Ms. Rodney. While Ms. Rodney’s specialization is in art, we have been told she is a great teacher in all areas and especially enjoys the sciences.

Our summer work at Burke is a huge step in the ultimate goal of Dreamporte: to be able to send our curriculum out to any school, ready to use. This is the first time we will be using an outside teacher and it is in the perfect school for us.