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November 2008 | Volume 66 | Number 3
Giving Students Ownership of Learning Pages 58-63

Learning in Depth

Kieran Egan

Imagine if schools were repositories of expertise—and the students were the experts.

At the end of the first week of 1st grade, at a ceremony attended by family members, Sara and her classmates each receive a topic that they will study throughout their schooling. There is much excitement as the students prepare to discover what they will become experts in. Sara walks on the stage in her turn, and the teacher hands her a folder. Inside is a small, colorful tile on which her topic is written, along with a picture of the topic and her name. Sara announces to the audience that she is to learn about apples for the next 12 years. The tile is added to a wall of such tiles in the school.

The teacher has received materials related to each of the topics her students will study, along with suggestions for getting the process of engagement and discovery going. In her first meeting with Sara a week later, she asks what Sara's caregivers and older friends have suggested she might do to learn about apples. Then the teacher suggests that Sara check out the varieties of apples in her local supermarket and, if possible, buy one apple from each variety.


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