The ZERI Learning System has been applied in a wide variety of regions, and contexts around the world from Brazil, to Egypt, to Japan. All of the schools involved have adapted the program to meet their local needs. However, the outcomes have all been the same. Students are more engaged in science learning. They have become inspired by the stories to approach problems from a systems perspective. They remember the content of their traditional curricula better.
For example, in Japan students were inspired by the story of the King of Hearts. One aspect of the story details how whales' hearts pump 2000 liters of blood each pulse and accomplish this with only 6 volts of electricity. The story explains how the whale uses the nutrients and chemicals in its food to produce the electricity that makes this possible. So to bring this idea to life, and to apply this principle to a practical solution for energy, the students made batteries using waste. An egg shell, some lemon juice, and a banana peel can create 0.2 volts of electricity. The students were excited by this idea, and were encouraged to think more creatively about the waste around them and the potential opportunities it could offer. This simple experiment engaged students in the interconnected disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics, and enabled them to go on to use their knew knowledge to think critically about modern electricity production.
In Egypt, the fables were used to introduce students to the topics in their science curriculum. They used songs, poems, and arts projects to enrich their science learning. Science soon became one of their favorite subjects. The project in Egypt is ongoing. It is being carefully monitored, and adjusted to meet the changing needs of the students and their communities. Students in rural southern Egypt have started growing mushrooms, inspired by the fables The Smart Mushroom and Shiitake Love Caffeine. Their village suffers from malnutrition, and this project will help children and their families to provide themselves with a source of food, and eventually with a little extra income. The next project will be for them to create soap from oranges, as introduced by the fable Orange Soap. The raw materials exist in these communities, but they are now learning to put them together in new ways. In addition, initial tests - both those especially designed to measure systems thinking, and standard tests for information retention - are showing that children exposed to the ZERI Learning Initiative are out preforming their peers across the board.
Melva Ines Aristizabal applied this learning system to children with special needs. She succeeded in bringing science concepts to autistic children, children with Downs Syndrome, and deaf mute children - all marginalized learners for whom science was education was previously considered out of reach. This approach, first implemented in Pensilvania, Caldas, Colombia is now the basis for a learning program throughout the state of Caldas for an estimated 1,300 children with learning challenges.
These examples demonstrate just a few ways that the ZERI Learning Initiative can be applied to meet the needs of local students and teachers. The system is not a fixed, unadjustable system, but one that is constantly co-evolving with people that interact with it. How could you apply the system in your school? What needs could this approach help to solve? The possibilities are endless...
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