Opportunity vs Experience

I was in a meeting. I dislike most meetings. Not because I dislike people or discourse, but because most meetings seem unfocused and more for ritual than utility.

In this particular meeting, we were presented with some self-guided learning options for students who need to be challenged more. That means they are working below their level.

Looking at the courses, I noticed that there was no curriculum. Meaning, there were courses only, and nothing formally connected.

So I thought, “I am a student. I want to d0 more science. I will take a single course. I pass the course. What do I get? Who knows about it? Do I have to take the course at my own school a year from now? Do I need extra work for only the experience of doing it?”

In some cases, such as being part of volunteer group, building something with a team, or collaborating on a single project, experience is all the reward someone needs. The reward of experience is truly great when connected to something unique and singular, something that is also an experience.

An opportunity is comprised of experiences, but experiences do not always lead to new opportunities.

As I was pondering the options, I remembered the logic I apply to all educational choices, and asked the guiding question that continually corrects me when I stray from the path: Am I creating a real opportunity for a student or am I just filling a gap in time?

That question lead me to see the list of options differently. I realised if I applied basic backward design to the list I could easily create a curriculum track that would connect to a new opportunity coming in the near future.

I proposed that we inform the students who qualified for the program, that we would have a summer program focused on environmental science and data logging. This means sampling the environment and doing research related to water, soil, air, and the local plant life. The program would also teach the students how to use new equipment, sensors, technology, etc., and to apply the scientific method. For those students looking for a pay-off in the end, it would give them the skills needed for IB Science courses 1-3 years in advance of other students. Making lab time less, and in class work-time more productive.


No actually. Fail. Not an insulting “Fail!” or “You’ve been Pwn’d!”, but the idea was rejected. It was rejected in favor of choosing only one of the courses and trying to convince at least 12 students to join. The course would start and end with the experience only. If a student happened to some how move the USA, they might be able to claim a high school credit for it, but the chances of any of these students moving to the USA are very low.

The main reason for this decision, was it seemed like an easier way to begin and an easier goal to achieve.

I felt a bit upset and troubled. At that moment I had basically failed as a student advocate.

If we are encouraging students to go beyond the classroom, they should have a reason. There should be more value in the process than just the grasping a new concept before their classmates.

Tony DePrato


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