Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Dragon Tale

Puff, the Magic Dragon became legendary after evolving from a poem by Ogden Nash penned at Cornell University in 1959 and later recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary.  Go ahead and try to argue the Urban Legend about marijuana and rolling joints -- those involved deny this vehemently.  I'm choosing to believe what has been reported -- that the song lyrics tell the story of Puff and his playmate Jackie Paper, a little boy who grows up and loses interest in the imaginary adventures of childhood.       
Last year, I was excited to be able to witness the creation of a dragon, name unknown, and a guarantee that his playmate -- also  his creator -- will continue to create imaginary adventures and creatures for a very long time.

 The Te@chthought #reflectiveteacher challenge today is:

Day 20

How do you curate student work–or help them do it themselves?

Once again I'm singing the praises of GOOGLE.   This time, it's because of their 20% Philosophy.  Two years ago, I snagged this philosophy, and have spent that time celebrating the brilliance of both Google's idea and the ideas of my students. learners.   In my Themes in Literature class, a class that is centered around a central theme each semester for the gifted and talented students in grades 9 - 12, one third of the class time is devoted to an independent project affectionately known as the Talent Development Opportunity  (TDO).  Students Learners embrace the idea that they can learn or explore a topic of their choosing as long as they focus on it intently for a committed period of time.  This idea is also promoted by Josh Kaufman in his book The First 20 Hours - How to Learn Anything Fast!, and the "Growth Mindset" work of   Carol Dweck.

Honestly, there is no way that I could begin to suggest some of the projects that  have been done in the last four semesters.  Some of the highlights include:
  • Learning to speak Arabic, German, Japanese using Pimslur, Rosetta Stone, or immersion.
  • Writing a novel loosely based upon the French Revolution, or on an Epidemic that threatens society.
  • Working in clay to sculpt or create.
  • Studying the human hand and drawing same from multiple perspectives, including sensory, skeletal, and muscle systems.
  • Experimenting with recipes and gathering data from classmates, altering the recipes with more healthy ingredients.
  • Starting a Salsa Company, including writing a business plan, designing the label and advertising.  Oh, and actually making the salsa.
  • Blogging about happiness.
  • Vlogging (to be better than John and Hank Green)
  • Writing a Victorian Lesson Plan
  • Creating Blueprints and Scale Models
  • Writing a concept album
  • Working in fiber arts
 The list is actually much longer and more varied.  Suffice it to say, that the proposals are written after the students review the NAGC Standards for Gifted and Talented Students and support their proposals with the goals established by this reputable national group.  This year I've also asked them to reflect upon the use of the Habits of Mind.  I require a quality proposal, and a monthly check in to discuss and reflect on the project.  The reality is the product is not the real project.  It can be, but it doesn't have to be.  The project is the metacognitive ANALYSIS of the process. 
Oh, and before this gets too lengthy for anyone to actually read on a weekend, let me tell you the rest of the Dragon Tale.
Alexis, an AP Studio Art student with a variety of artistic experiences, had never worked with fiber, and wrote a proposal to work with wool, creating a 3D object.   Using felting techniques, Alexis continued to revise and refine her dragon.  That dragon got her an all expenses paid trip to Texas to the All Dolls Are Art conference where she displayed her piece, served as an intern, and studied under internationally known doll artists.  (How cool is THAT?)  
Who knew that eighteen 84 minute classes during her senior year could lead to something so cool? I'm guessing the dudes at Google knew.   I'm certain that Carol Dweck and Josh Kaufman also would have something to say.  
Growth mindset, determined students, and metacognitive responses all lead to projects and processes that will follow these kids for many years.  And, for at least one, to Texas and beyond.

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