Mushroom Learnings: Other People’s Projects

 

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My mushroom!

HGSE is full of projects. I’m currently working on a case study designing a teacher-led plan to stem teacher attrition in a school, a memo detailing how you could bring digital teacher coaching to a rural state, a proposal for a deeper-learning after school program targeting upper elementary ELLs, and a research-based rewrite of civics education to account for social media. When I came, I expected to learn a lot through doing these practice-based projects, and I am. 

What I didn’t realize I’d be learning from is other’s projects. Often people need participants to make their projects work, and being the caring friends we are, we step in for activities or focus groups or experiments. It’s been a way to sample classes I’m not in. One led to a really probing, affirming discussion the day after the election about the different ways race enters the classroom teaching in homogeneous communities and I left with a lot of new ideas, new resources, and a better understanding of what I want professionally going forward. She got quotes and I developed a life plan — fair trade. 

The most unexpected one I’ve taken part in is spore prints. It’s for T-550, “Designing for Learning by Creating.” The class is a big presence here — 150+ people, donuts before every meeting, a strong social media game — and I’m not in it. Check out @TFiveFifty or #tfivefifty on Instagram or Twitter to get a sampling and be jealous alongside me. 

Everybody has to design something, and somebody in my cohort is trying to cultivate observation and wonder through mushrooms. I couldn’t attend the walk-in-the-woods day, but I did have a lovely lunch where we observed wild mushrooms using all of our senses. We looked more closely with microscopes you could attach to your phone and finished by leaving the caps face-down on paper overnight to make a spore print. It turns out mushrooms secrete something that colors paper. Who knew? Not me!

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My spore print in the upper left and illustrations of my mushroom underside from various angles, including the cut-off stem.

Taking the time to stop, look, and wonder at something I’ve literally never thought about was a gift I didn’t know I needed. I had so much on my plate that day and almost didn’t go, but the experience was calming in the moment, taught me something about how mushrooms work, and has me looking at everyday objects differently. My final product is taped on my wall in my bedroom as a reminder to pause, be curious, and take advantage of all the wonderfully weird, wonderfully unexpected chances that come my way this year.

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A closeup. I took 15ish pictures of my mushroom using a microscope that fits on your smartphone and lets you take pictures. They’re like $10!

Becca Schouvieller is in the Instructional Leadership strand for experienced teachers within the Learning & Teaching program. She taught social studies in Maine for six years and is excited about civic education, rural education, college access and preparation, working within existing schools to improve teaching quality, and finding the best breakfast sandwich in Cambridge.

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