What School Could Be:
Real-World Challenges

This acclaimed, top-selling education book showcases the compelling advantages of connecting student learning to the real world. Be prepared to be inspired, as you learn about educators using real-world challenges to prepare their students for a future none of us can predict!

There’s no limit to the number of real-world challenges your students can create and attack. Don’t think narrowly. Let your imaginations soar. It can be a community service initiative or a science experiment. But it can be a student immersing themself in a topic, and teaching others.

Ted’s book What School Could Be is based on his trip to all fifty states, visiting some 200 schools. It’s cram-jammed with examples of real-world challenges, including these:

  • Kindergartners in Indiana designing robots and doing 3-D printing;
  • Third, fourth, and fifth graders in West Virginia staffing the school’s technology support desk;
  • Elementary school kids in South Carolina responsible for the school garden;
  • Eighth graders in North Dakota making documentaries capturing the history of iconic local buildings;
  • High-school students in New Mexico creating and implementing social media campaigns for the local pro soccer team.

You’ll find dozens of great real-world challenges in What School Could Be. Our advice? Empower your students to create their own, since they’ll learn so much in the process. Sure, this kind of open-ended challenge is full of ambiguity. And you won’t know exactly what they should do, or how to do it. But that’s the real world, and it’s important for kids to learn to embrace ambiguity in creating bold initiatives. And when they’re empowered to make their world better, they’ll develop a sense of purpose and essential skills, with a wide range of ways to shine.  They’ll have agency in identifying what they want to pursue and how to pursue it. And they’ll master deep, relevant knowledge. These are the PEAK principles (purpose, essential competencies, agency, and deep knowledge) that What School Could Be highlights.

A number of great organizations offer comprehensive Project-Based Learning resources — EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning), New Tech Network, and PBLWorks (from Buck Institute of Education).  If your experience with real-world challenges resonates with your community, check out these potential partners to go further and deeper.