After discussions about citizenship and reflection on a conflict resolution strategy called “Peace Makers”, our team started talking about what it means to have a passport. We discovered that the actual legal travel document succinctly and profoundly tells us a three-pronged story about its owner:
1) Who I am (my citizenship; my name; my photo; my place of birth; my origin story)
-->This goes far beyond the simple discussion of "my parents were born here, and I was born here, and therefore I am a Canadian or Indian or American, or British", but rather an exploration of one's entire personhood, or my "me-ness". This includes beliefs, culture, language, religion, personality, learning habits, peer groups, interests and hobbies, talents, family history, and more)
2) Where I've been (the colourful and story-filled stamps adorning originally blank pages)
-->Point to any stamp in my current passport or any flag hanging on my wall and I could tell you myriad stories about my time in that place, the struggles we faced, and the people we met along the way
3) Who/what helped me get there (the experiences, people, and even hurdles who gave me those stamps)
-->Not just the border security person at the front of the Customs & Immigration lineup, but the fundamental essence of those aforementioned stamps. The "meat and potatoes", as it were, of the stories held inside those stamps.
As we discussed this, it dawned on us that a valuable, reflection-based learning journey contains the exact same three elements! Knowing that a passport (usually) can't get filled up on one single trip, we set out to make a long-term portfolio and reflective learning-journey-artifact collection project for our students that lasts the duration of their middle school careers.
This project would culminate in either a comprehensive digital portfolio and/or a physical "Passport" with literal stamps to highlight the long (and hopefully inherently valuable!) learning journey taken by our students over several years. Just like the stamps in my own passport, these artifacts could spark the telling of a story of an invaluable learning experience, inspirational guest speaker, a challenging problem with a creative solution, a monumental field trip, an important speech, a teacher's unexpected encouraging words, an underdog's path to the championship, or a plethora of other potential experiences.
Using Health class as a launch point and using MyBlueprint as a blueprint *ahem* for each student's Citizenship (Who I am), subject specific classes could begin using common language and buy-in to transform seemingly insignificant moments during any class of the day into potentially immensely valuable stamps in students' Passports (Where I've Been).
Moreover, with an emphasis on students identifying who or what has the influence to "give you a stamp", (Who/what helped me get there) the learning journey becomes acutely visible to their peers, parents, and the broader community. Students also begin to realize the immense educational value extra-classroom sources can have on each their own unique educational journey. These sources of experiential knowledge include non-exhaustively: elders, volunteers, mentors, field trip tour guides, coaches, industry experts, peers from other schools/communities/cities, and more).
Finally, at the conclusion of this current, often tumultuous, yet highly formative chapter of their lives, our hope is that our students leave our school with the experiences, tools (and perhaps even a collection of artifacts!) to help them be everything they are meant to be, find work in a field that fosters excitement and ignites passion, and be able to incrementally make their world (and ours) a better place, all the while being able to fondly and reflectively recall the stories, stamps, and struggles that brought them there.
Build life stories. Reflect. Repeat.