College & Workforce Readiness

Learning by Doing

August 06, 2007 1 min read

With diplomas in hand, most new high school graduates would rather spend the summer soaking up their last moments of leisure before they have to tackle college work and make career plans. But a group of Miami students were motivated instead to tackle complicated, real-world lessons in Washington this summer, as the Miami Herald reports.

The students, who graduated this year from Killian Senior High School, started a grass-roots lobbying campaign on behalf of a friend, Juan Gomez, and his family, who faced deportation to their native Columbia. After weeks of flooding lawmakers’ offices with letters, e-mails, and faxes—and using the social-networking site Facebook to rally others to do so, too—10 students went to Washington to meet with key members of Congress. For a week and a half, the newspaper reports, the students spent long days walking the halls and waiting for their chance to plea the family’s case. They also pushed for support of pending immigration bills that would help the family.

In the end, the Gomez family was released from detention and given a 45-day reprieve.

It’s pretty striking how this cause sparked such passion and determination in these young men and women. I’m sure they learned more compelling lessons about how the government works this summer than perhaps throughout their academic careers so far.

We’ve all all heard stories of children taking action to help others or push particular policies or causes. Often their experiences teach concrete lessons they have trouble absorbing from a textbook or lecture, whether they be science concepts, math skills, or civic principles.

How can educators motivate students through real-world lessons, and what are the challenges of incorporating them into the curriculum?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.

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