As teachers, we possess great potential to impact our student's lives. Of course, our students also have great potential to fill their life with meaning, purpose, innovation and so on. But it's crucial to recognize that this potential goes unrealized unless we actually have the determination and direction to do something with it. That's where grit comes in.
Students can learn next generation science skills just as easily in refugee camps in northern Iraq as they can in American suburbs, provided they're given the proper tools and encouraged to engage with purpose.
The above photo is one of our client's classrooms in northern Iraq, and it is an excellent example of grit at work. Students are engaged with purpose and determination to solve a problem or answer a question. As teachers, we know what engagement looks like, and that's exactly what we see in this picture. Whether with a pencil and paper, with manipulatives, or within another context, grit is students engaged in trying (determination) to manifest their own ideas (direction).
Here the Next Generation Science Standards really come into play. When it comes to using those standards, the question is always: What's the goal? What's its connection to grit? The answer is that when students are in the role of scientists and engineers, they have the opportunity to see purpose in their own work. When a student sees a connection to what they are doing—when they see personal relevance and an opportunity to manifest their own ideas—they are much more likely to invest in their own learning. It becomes student-centered, and they are likelier to take the risks that lead to true engagement with the material. Therefore, if we can create environments like this, then we are investing in their learning.
When this learning has real-world relevance, so much the better. If students can open a newspaper and see a connection to what they're doing in the classroom, they have a much easier time connecting with that material. They begin to create concept-to-world, concept-to-concept, and concept-to-self connections, which are very valuable to learning. Purpose and passion are fed by that type of experience in the classroom.