Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's Been Awhile

My last post was on March 21. I've been having difficulty finishing up blog posts.  I've started several then hit a wall and ended up deleting them. How do people like +Peter DeWitt and +Eric Sheninger do it? They write several blogs a week.

So here I am on a Sunday afternoon, and this time, I will finish this blog post!

Today's post will be composed of several short thoughts or reflections; these are actually posts I started but didn't finish.

  • Randy and I took a short vacation to Maui during our Spring Break. It was a great time to get away and not even think about school. (I didn't bring my computer.) Randy was there for a hearing so I joined him the next morning, my golf clubs in tow. I truly enjoyed playing at two new courses I had not had the privilege to play at previously, but it was certainly a challenge. I felt like a beginner because it was so unfamiliar. It's sort of like our kids and learning. We give them worksheets that are familiar then test them. They do okay, but when we give them something new and different, they struggle. If I wanted to become a better golfer, I would learn how to play at different courses rather than going to the same course each week. Likewise, if we want students to be better readers or mathematicians, we should present them with problem-solving activities or project-based learning. They may struggle, but applying what they've learned to a relevant, real-world situation leads to a higher level of thinking. Isn't that what education should be?
  • Our school has been implementing interdisciplinary units for over a decade. We are moving toward project-based learning, and it's been a struggle. So we decided to use a real-life problem that would give teachers and students an opportunity to experience PBL first-hand . Now that our school construction project will be completed later this year, we should be getting new playground equipment.  We're asking students for ideas so we can come up with a proposal to our Department. Students have been asking questions, doing research, and sharing their ideas of what they would like to see in the playground. I am impressed with their ideas and their questions and especially with their enthusiasm! Some classes have even asked whether we can extend the time for recess and whether they can suggest changes to the whole field. We never think to ask students for their ideas; it is evident that even kindergarteners have creative ideas! Since this is PBL and sharing is part of the process, we plan to share our students' ideas with the Department and have conversations about recess, schedules, and the best way to utilize the fields. Check out #hkesplay on Twitter. We just started this hashtag and hope that teachers and students will add to the discussion!
  • Earlier this school year, we held a Super STEM Saturday for Girls Only. This past Saturday, we hosted our Super STEM Saturday for Boys. The observation we had made that girls and boys approach problems differently was clearly evident. It reminded me of a book I read a few years ago, Play Like a Man; Win Like a Woman by Gail Evans.  There is a difference between girls and boys when they are confronted with a problem. Girls are more methodical; they think of their idea then share with someone else. They agree on a plan and then implement that idea. Boys, on the other hand, just do . . . without really thinking of the consequences. I watched a group of boys collaborating on building a bridge with planks, bricks, boxes, and other available materials. Teams would have to drive a remote control over it without falling into the hot lava.  The boys were supposed to work as a team, draw up their design and then discuss and come to a consensus. The volunteer tried to get them to do that, but I notice that the boys preferred to just start building! When the volunteer asked, "Do you think you can get the remote control car to go up that hill?" the boys replied, "Let's try it! We can always change it if it doesn't work!" I also noticed that some of the boys were so absorbed in building their bridge with popsicle sticks; some stayed at that activity for over an hour and they kept making revisions until it worked. And competition is what drove the boys. Even if there was no prize, they wanted to have the longest bridge or float the most pennies or design a spaghetti/marshmallow bridge that held the most weight before breaking. We didn't see that with the girls. Super STEM Saturday was a success for both the girls and the boys! This is an activity we plan to continue in the coming years. 
This team collaborated to build a bridge that would go over hot lava. Collaborating is a crucial element of STEM. 
These are some of the boys who showed up for the STEM Saturday for Boys.
We were competing with sports, Scouting, and family events so boys and parents were allowed to come for part of the day if they could not stay for the full 3 hours.
Whew! I feel better now that this blog post is done!

No comments:

Post a Comment