How Is What You Are Studying in School Relevant to Your Life and the Larger World?

How Is What You Are Studying in School Relevant to Your Life and the Larger World?

Or maybe your school offers courses that teach skills, like computer coding, wood shop, music or photography, that build on interests you have always had and like to explore beyond the school day.

If so, what have these classes taught you? How have you connected what you learned in them with your real life?

If it’s not so easy to answer this question, think about why. What are you studying? How could it be better connected to who you are, the things you care about and the things you’d like to know more about?

In 2018 we asked teachers how they made the content they teach relevant, and you can find over 40 examples in “When School Gets Real: Teachers Connect Classroom Lessons to Current Events.” Here are a few.

Jeff Baird, Brooklyn, N.Y., Middle School

Every year, my eighth-grade students choose a modern-day issue of injustice that they would like to learn about, and take action toward solving. This has resulted in everything from Instagram accounts about our society’s racist beauty standards, to fund-raisers for L.G.B.T.Q.+ rights groups, to creative writing pieces, artwork and political letters that urge others to help victims of police brutality, mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Kristen Kalenowicz, Milwaukee, High School

Two years ago I introduced the lens of mental health to discuss “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Bell Jar.”

Part of me wondered if this was overstepping, if mental illness should be saved for health class. Yet over the past year, my belief that young people need to explore mental health across all disciplines has been reaffirmed. With the recent suicides of public figures, the bullying of L.G.B.T.Q.+ individuals, and society’s discussion surrounding school shooters and mental illness, this is a topic that we cannot afford to leave out.

Kellyn McNamara, Charlotte, N.C., Middle and High School

I am designing an Earth and environmental science class in which students will connect a current event or issue to each unit’s content. For instance, for Unit 1, Earth as a Planet, students will explore the history of space exploration (and its funding), and prepare for a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate in which they will argue either for federal funding of space exploration, or for privatized space exploration.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Do any of the projects described here appeal to you? Which do you wish you could take part in? Why?

  • What is something you have studied in school that has felt especially connected to your life in some way, or to important issues in the world outside school? How? How much, in general, do you see the communities and issues you care about reflected in what you learn?

  • Should school try to make these connections more often? If so, how do you think that might be done? In general, do you think it should be the job of teachers to make the curriculum relevant to their students, or do you think that’s beyond the scope of their jobs?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.