Monday, November 24, 2014

Camouflaging Learning


 Thanksgiving must be coming, because tonight was the night when the lights in the schools burn late as parents venture into the classrooms to meet with teachers during the festivity known as "Parent Conferences."  In our district, this is an especially celebrated time, because the late nights mean trade off time, extending the Thanksgiving holiday from Wednesday straight through to the following Tuesday.  Why Tuesday?  You ask?  Clearly you are unaware of the importance of the third most important holiday this weekend -- Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and THE FIRST DAY OF HUNTING SEASON.

In anticipation, the camo is already in full fashion this season.  So much so, that UNPLANNED, three students in one class sat down next to each other in (gasp!) the identical shirt last week.  Yes, for me, Parent Conferences is the signal that the holidays are coming.

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today, 

Nov 24 What are your dreams for education in the future?


I've referenced my time at UCONN over Three Summers.   While that certificate or master's degree is directed specifically at people working with the gifted and talented population in a K - 12 environment, primarily, it is rooted deeply in the work of the patriarch of something known as the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, Joe Renzulli, and his wife Sally Reis, the implications for a similar strategy to engage students of many abilities are far-reaching. 

Students are capable of much more than we are asking of them.  If learners are interested in something, they will naturally follow and explore, and develop a fascination that is far more infectious than anything that we could, as educators, prescribe that they learn.  The idea behind the Schoolwide Enrichment Model is not unlike the ideas for Genius Hour, or Project Based Learning.

I will admit, to anyone who will listen, that I didn't get the Pythagorean theorem until I was over thirty.  I had learned it, I had applied it on the test, midterm and presumably final during Geometry in school, but I did so as a rote memory activity.  It wasn't until the early nineties that I was trying to figure out how much fabric I needed to buy to set quilt squares "on point" to make a set of completed quilt squares large enough for a queen sized bed.  By putting the squares point to point, I'd need some triangles to straighten the edges.  But how to figure out how much I'd need?

Lucky for me, my husband asked what I was thinking about, and he, being the Merit Scholar that I am not, was able to point out my oversight, allowing me to feel like I'd just discovered the new world.
In fact, I sort of had.

I'm not suggesting that every kid should quilt to understand geometry, but there certainly is sound research in the idea of projects as a means to learn.  Call them apprentices, interns, shadowers, and give students a project to solve in a real world situation, and it is amazing how much real, honest, deep, critical thinking happens.

I'm just wondering now how many lessons could be taught this week using hunting as the motivational project....