In this two-part series, our in-house educator and design liaison Laine Eichenlaub speaks to how parents can apply UDL principles at home.
Welcome to the new world where parents have had to become home school teachers!
As a parent, you may be looking to your children’s teachers for guidance, your friends on Facebook for tips, or digging fretfully for activities to keep your kiddos from climbing the walls right now. As an educator, I want to offer you a simple game changer that is aligned with the established learning framework Universal Design for Learning (UDL). A little background on UDL: it is a learning framework created within Harvard’s School of Education, and it advocates for student choice to encourage metacognition (understanding of one’s own thought processes). This framework can help quell your panic about your children falling behind, enhance learning beyond what is achieved within a traditional classroom, and ease your fears of your own pending insanity with the cooped up little ones we now find in our homes. What is this game changer, you ask? It’s called Project-Based Learning.
Project-Based Learning, a part of UDL, is not a new concept in the world of education but may be a new term for most parents out there. Essentially, PBL connects learning to the real world through the topics covered and the formats followed. The framework teaches students how to be self-regulated learners, an essential life skill and something our UDL K-12 Deck of Spaces addresses.
But how could I introduce Project Based Learning to my kids at home, you may be asking yourself?
It’s so easy!
Sit them down and talk to them about what they are interested in. Space travel? Grocery stores? The presidential election? Sports? This will be entirely directed by your child.
Then, plan out a way for them to research, explore, and create something in relation to that topic. Let them spend a whole morning creating a model of their spaceship, for example. Or, let them get on the phone with their grandparents about how grocery stores differed “back in their day.” Another idea – watch the news and read articles about the upcoming election to and let your kids create their own platform on which they would run their own campaign. Approach the world-at-large as an opportunity for expanded learning by tying education into broader systems.
Then, create something! Write your own podcast. Create a new version of their favorite sport outside and make a YouTube tutorial to share with the world. Work with them and create a list of ideas, together. Kids naturally want to dig into things and run with ideas, so let them! Also, be cognizant to encourage discovery in multiple mediums to increase their engagement with their work, another core value of UDL.
Teaching young children to discover how and why they think the way to do, while encouraging self-direction, teaches children an essential life skill. As adults, it can be difficult to allow kids the autonomy to create their own path, but doing so teaches students to love learning. If you allow your children to produce work in the medium they find most interesting, tie education to broader ecosystems, and encourage them to be self-directed: they’ll love to learn. Life-long learning, along with curiosity, empathy and enterprise skills (the ability to see the world at large as an opportunity for expanded learning and engage with a multitude of different people) may very well be one of the best survival skills you can give your child in the 21st century economy.
Need more tips? Check out our Deck of Spaces: K-12 Idea Kit for informative descriptions of methods you can begin integrating within learning environments, aligned directly with UDL principles.
Next week, we’ll be delving into how you can modify your physical space at home to encourage a supportive learning environment.