Saturday, January 25, 2014

Making STEAM and ME...

Saturday night...the end of a long day of planning...collegiality and...making! I'm hanging out at Ocean Creek Resort in North Myrtle Beach, on a retreat...with a cohort of people from the UNCC Writing Project, Tar River Writing Project and Discovery Place. We gathered here this weekend to think more about a project we are currently engaged in called the Intersections Project. The only way something as ambitious as the Intersections Project "works" is if all the key stakeholders involved get the opportunity to imagine what that project may end up looking they are making it.

That's exactly what this weekend retreat has been all about...a chance to imagine what is possible. Getting to spend time with Michael (our Discovery Place expert) and Mary Catherine (my friend and fellow teacher at David Cox Road Elementary School)...thinking about our 2nd Make Cycle and planning out future experiences at Discovery Place has been very exciting. How so you may be asking? begin with...through our collaborative efforts...we are attempting to plan an experience that will be memorable for the students we teach while our image of learning not currently valued in many traditional school settings. Memorable in that "it" (a series of field trips to Discovery Place and the McColl Museum) will connect what students are learning in the classroom with the concept of MAKING as well as the connections (or intersections) between Science and Literacy they will inquire into while on their field trip. The image of learning we hope to illustrate as having value is one that involves risk...creativity...imagination...collaboration...and...the realization that much can be learned through failure.

Just this week...Michael, Mary Catherine and I our respective classrooms...what learning could be like as the students built structures with rectangular, wooden blocks. After spending a few minutes examining the blocks' attributes and engaging in free figure out what could be done with these ordinary pieces of wood, the students attempted to build structures that could hold a predetermined amount of weight while trying also to see how high they could build something. No one laughed when somebody's structure fell...instead words of encouragement were given...along with advice...based on what was being learned through the experience.

Why can't this level of engagement happen during a traditional lesson on (for example) understanding how to determine cause and effect in non-fiction text? What is missing in our practice that makes the wooden block experience stand out as something foreign to what happens daily in our classrooms? Working with Michael and Mary Catherine...through the Intersections Project...provides me space to think about these and other questions.

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