As I walked around the school today, I stopped to admire the vegetables and plants that the second graders and the fifth grade Garden Club are growing. Then I noticed that the vines from the gourd plant were entwined on the native hibiscus plant. Last year, some fourth graders planted seeds from the gourds that they cleaned out, sanded, and polished to make ipu, a Hawaiian rhythm instrument. With minimal care, the gourd vines continue to grow. As our SSC and I carefully disentangled the vines from the hibiscus bush, I made a lot of observations about how the vine was growing. I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity for students to ask questions about the plant and how it grows. This could lead to researching about the gourd plant and why it was so important to the ancient Hawaiians. Hopefully, when students make music with their ipu, they will have a better understanding and a better appreciation, for the gourd.
Due to the construction on our campus, we have limited space for our students to play at recess. It's not too late to have our students be part of the solution. Let them have a discussion about what could be allowed at recess, what rules or restrictions we might have, and what new activities we might allow students to participate in during this free time. Why haven't we thought to ask them for their ideas? Students might be more invested in finding solutions to problems if we give them the opportunity to share in the discussion. After all, as this article points out, recess is essential for children.
Recently, a question was raised about a homework policy at our school. We've had this discussion before, but there was no consensus so we decided that each grade level would determine their own policy. This time, our discussion was fueled by a blog about an elementary school that abolished homework. Since we are looking for opportunities to learn more about project-based learning, I think this is a perfect time to use a real-life problem and have all our role groups - teachers, students, and parents - contribute to the solution. We will come up with questions then allow time for exploration, examining other schools' homework policies, sharing research about the benefits of homework, and discussing our findings. Hopefully, every role group's voices will be heard, and we will come up with some shared beliefs about homework that will help us create a policy for our school.
These kinds of discussions will help our teachers to gain a better understanding about the positive benefits of project-based learning. We can then empower our students to be problem-finders and problem-solvers, to seek solutions to everyday problems they may encounter in their lives.
|Can you spot the new gourds that are growing? There are at least 4; look carefully.|