“The search for meaning is not a solitary philosophical quest, as it’s often depicted, and as I thought it was in college — and meaning is not something that we create within ourselves and for ourselves. Rather, meaning largely lies in others. If we want to find meaning in our lives, we have to begin by reaching out.”
— Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning
Designing meaningful learning experiences is no different. Our goal with the IA Online Summer Academy was to use one of our projects from the Innovation Academy at The American School in Lima, Peru and reach out to schools and students around the world to join us for a one-month, interdisciplinary learning experience. The response was incredible.
Whether it was The American School Foundation in Monterrey, Mexico who was the first to hop on board and offer to co-sponsor the course, or the 20 other international schools who spread the word to their students, this experience would not have been possible without their collaboration.
In the beginning, our hope was to have 12–20 students for one cohort so we could prototype The Imperfect Art of Living. In the end, we had 55 deeply engaged students from North, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The course was also led by teachers from three different schools, volunteers from various countries, and we were able to connect with 17 educators from around the globe through weekly Zoom workshops.
As a result of these collaborations, students were able to gain perspectives on life from their peers with completely different backgrounds, and they opened up through Zoom in ways we could have never imagined. The depth of their conversations, along with their eagerness to connect authentically with each other, comes through in their powerful feedback on the course.
With the success of the IA Online Summer Academy, we are now running The Imperfect Art of Living as a semester-long, interdisciplinary course. We currently have 40 students from 10 international schools, and most of our learners are receiving academic credit.
What ultimately makes this experience meaningful, however, is the range of perspectives from students and teachers around the world. So we are reaching out to schools again for the Spring 2021 semester. If you have students in 10th, 11th or 12th grade that would love to connect with learners from diverse backgrounds, please share this information with them.
Finally, if you are a teacher or administrator, here is more information on the course, and please contact us if you would like to know more about a professional development opportunity connected to the course to design meaningful learning experiences together.
Corey Topf is Director of Innovation Academy Online based at The American School in Lima, Peru.