Feature Authentic Learning Grant Wood AEA Classroom


In Venture Academics students in the Behavioral Science strand don’t just read about other cultures — they build connections to other cultures and interact with people who have different perspectives than their own. Venture Academics is Linn-Mar high school’s project-based learning program where students explore the world around them and apply the things they are learning to real-world situations. Students In the Behavior Science strand focus on psychology and sociology concepts.

This semester, Behavioral Science students had a unique opportunity to connect with another sociology class in the UK to participate in a cultural exchange project. Venture students spent several weeks researching a variety of aspects of American culture. Students were divided into groups, and each tackled a social institution. Students explored religion, family, economics, government, education, healthcare, and leisure.

Their research required students to get out of the classroom to visit local businesses, organizations, and non-profits to gather information. Students presented their findings to the rest of the class and then printed and laminated their presentation slides to send in a box to the sociology class in the UK. In addition to informational materials about American culture, the box was filled with items that connected to various facets of American culture.

Students discussed how agriculture is a large part of our culture in Iowa and sent corn nut snacks and Quaker Oats cereal. Each student sent one of their favorite snacks that are not readily available in the UK. Students took pictures of typical homes in our community and shared what a normal school day looks like and activities and sports that students participate in. Students also included auto-biographies about themselves, their daily life, interests, and future plans.

Venture students received their box from the UK a few weeks ago. They received informational materials about culture in the UK as well as food items to try such as tea, “crumble bread’, orange marmalade, snacks, and marmite (a savory yeast based spread). Students reviewed the cultural information over a tea party where they enjoyed the foods they received. They also received a QR code that linked them to a Spotify playlist that included music that UK students liked to listen to. The students in the UK wrote letters about themselves and shared their social media accounts. Some of the Venture students have connected to the UK students through social media and have continued to learn more about the culture through continued conversations.

When asked about the project, one Venture student named Abby said, “I enjoyed this project, it helped us work together. It was also easy to connect the course content to this project.” Emma, another student, said that she felt like this project was a great way to learn about different aspects of culture and help teach them project management skills. One student, MacLynn, when reflecting on this project and what she thought was interesting about UK culture said, “I thought it was odd...” But then she stopped herself, smiled, and said, “I mean different.” Moments such as the realization that what may initially appear “odd”; is simply “different”; illustrate the transformative power of experiences like this. This experience expanded students’ perspectives and helped them gain an appreciation for a culture that was different than their own.