Just this year, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia became the world’s most polluted city. If you’ve ever experienced one of its winters, then you would understand why. With temperatures that plummet below -40C, burning coal and other dirty fossil fuels for warmth is the only way to stay alive. And with 45% of Mongolia’s population now flocking to the city for better opportunity, it doesn’t seem the situation will be getting any better.

But what’s more troubling than the pollution is the conditions in which many of its residents are forced to live. Hastily constructed industrial parks and overcrowded housing units have transformed much of the region’s natural beauty into an eyesore.

Beautifying the Industrial Park

It is within this context that students from The American School of Ulaanbaatarset out to make an authentic contribution. Emmanuel Smith, a 6th grade Humanities Teachers wanted his students to better understand their privilege and build empathy for the community just footsteps away from the school walls.

After taking students into the community to experience it first hand, he asked them a simple yet profound question:

How can we foster hope in the community through poetry and symbolism? 

Over the next six weeks, students would answer this question by creating symbols of hope and accompanying fables/ poems or short stories to hang from steel barricades that lined its streets. The hope was that the symbols and literature would help restore a sense of pride in the local Mongolian people.

Here are some pictures to illustrate the journey students took:

What is authentic learning? How do we create these experiences for our students?

The symbols and accompanying stories of hope in Ulaanbaantar are not experiences you can replicate in the classroom. They are authentic learning experiences that allow students to investigate an authentic problem in order to create authentic and transformative outcomes.

This week, I’m gathering some of the most innovative educators to help unpack the components of authentic learning experiences such as these, and help you create them in your context.

First, on Monday night at 6:30 pm PST (Tuesday morning 9:30 am Asia Time), we will work as a community to define authentic learning; and on Wednesday night at 6:30 pm PST (Thursday morning 9:30 am Asia Time), with Brian Delgado of High Tech High, we will uncover how to create these curricular rich experiences with your students.

The sessions will not be recorded and there will be no replays. Below are the two links to reserve your spot:

Link to the Twitter Chat
Link to Sign Up for the Webinar

Hope to see you there!