May 2, 2008

Inquiry in Education: The Work with Eight Graders

In April, I presented The Work to six classes of eight-grade earth science students at a local middle school—about 180 young "inquirers" in all, plus visits from a language arts teacher and the superintendent. The students are using The Work if they choose to, along with other attention-focusing tools (including breathing and meditation), as part of their inquiry process for a 21-day fourth-quarter project called "Random Acts of Kindness," during which they explore and track what keeps them from being kind to themselves, others, and the planet. We identified common beliefs about family, school, and friends, along with universal thoughts like, "What I do doesn't matter," and used the Yellow Card to question their thoughts. Their teacher created a rubric for them to record their experiences.

From where I sat, interest was mixed; some kids really got into it, others were neutral, others rebellious. (Pretty typical for 13-14 year olds, I'd say.) According to their teacher, they got into it more when she reviewed the process with them the next day, and showed them how to use it with their assignment.

Naturally, a couple of the students immediately began to tease their teacher with "Is it true?" :-)

I think it's fair to say that I was the one who needed this curriculum the most; I have been picking up trash in the street like crazy since discussing with the students thoughts that keep us from picking up trash. "I didn't put it there." "It's not my job." "I'm too lazy." "It won't make a difference."

I'll keep you posted about any feedback I get from the students.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Boudi said...

This is beautiful. I have been thinking about how to bring TW to high schools, and would love to do this as a dissertation project. What kind of feedback are you getting? What were parent responses? Have there been transformations with staff?

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Hi Boudi,

The "staff" (meaning the eighth-grade science teacher) was already transformed! I went to the school at her behest. The results were mixed; partly because the students hadn't been prepared for this, partly because I had only 40 minutes per class. Their follow-up letters were most interesting - they seemed to think that they shouldn't have "bad" thoughts!

Also they only worked with the yellow card. Their teacher gave a worksheet to a couple of kids who were confused, and they not only liked using it, they thought their peers would too.

I haven't received any parent feedback.

Well, we learned a lot, their teacher and I, and we'll do it differently next time. If you're a School graduate you can participate in the Education forum at for updates on how educaors are using The Work with with faculty, students and parents.