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We Got to Play and It was Good….

Many people do not know this about me, but I’m a country girl.  The first twenty years of my life I grew up in what I called the boonies. It was house filled with horses, dogs, cats, people and even a lone sheep ūüôā  I spent my life playing in coolies, forests, tree forts and swamps.  Quite often, my sisters and I would come home with pockets full of all sorts of interesting things that my mother made us leave on the steps before we walked in the door.

I worried about my peanut growing up in the city that she would not get these same experiences as I did growing up.  Funny enough I did not give her or my husband and I enough credit. We spend most of our days at parks and playgrounds, her favorite thing to do when the snow is gone is ride her bike and scooter around our cul-de-sac. I’ll never forget the first time I caught her hanging from a tree branch, how proud she was that she had shimmied up a tree.

What this has to do with today’s post on Global Play Day you might wonder.  It starts with a conversation I had at Christmas I had with some of my students.  I went around the room asking them to share one cool present they got but also to share one great thing they did over the holiday.  Most of the answers were similar – they had gone tobogganing, they had gone swimming, but a new answer came up that sort of bothered me.  I had two of my students share they got to spend the whole holiday “playing on the ipad.” I asked if they had done anything else fun, played with a friend, gone somewhere and they were quite happy to share that they got free, unlimited access to this technology.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of technology – it has a place both in my workplace and at home. I am also that parent, when stressed and rushed trying to throw supper together, I will throw the iPad at my peanut just so I can have a few moments peace.  But I also believe greatly in balance.  I feel it is important for kids to have those moments where their face isn’t buried in a piece of tech. I believe they should have the chance to get out and play like we did when we were kids. 

So, when the email came reminding me about Global Play Day I again presented this to my staff asking them to give up an afternoon for this.  I shared how I felt it was so important to give our students the time to have unstructured play, where we would not plan it out for them or tell them what to do or how to do it.  It was important for us to give them access to choices and then just step back unless needed. And again they stepped up and agreed to my crazy plan. (I love that about them)

Today was the day and I was lucky enough to be able to walk around and see Global Play Day in action. I walked around and saw imagination and creativity in so many different ways. Boys were making home made beyblade spinners with unifix cubes, there were card tower challenges, domino runs and so much more.  Students right from kindergarten to grade six were just playing – they were laughing and talking. They were sharing, taking turns, collaborating, working together, building amazing things out of everyday things like blocks and cubes. They were creative, imaginative and just having fun.  The power of that was something that should not be lost in this never-ending march of homework, standardized tests, and reading levels.

Having fun making

Having fun with dominos

They all loved knowing that they were part of a group of students across the globe playing like they were.  I was lucky enough to even sneak a peek at my peanut and watch her building with her grade 6 buddy, making towers with magnets.  Her and her buddy were talking away, she didn’t even notice I was there.  It’s funny because I am sure if the students had had their way, this would have gone on much longer than it did. It was the teachers that were quite happy to shut things down. (it’s amazing how the volume can go up when kids are having fun).

Making puzzles together

Making their own Beyblades


Our kids spend so much time in structure – in the hours at school and then the afterschool teams, clubs and lessons that many of them are involved in. I honestly believe it is important to give our students these moments where we can just to remind them how fun it is to be a kid.  They will learn soon enough the responsibilities that come from getting older.

To the organizers of Global Playday, you asked if we should add another day, to that I say a resounding yes.  The more opportunities our students can have to moments like these, the more they can go home and say, “Guess what, at school I got to just play today!” And isn’t that a great thing?

Minecraft’s Just a Game, Isn’t It?

I have been using Minecraft as a teaching tool in my classroom for over 3 years now, and a successful teaching tool I may add.  It’s funny because every time I bring up using Minecraft in my classroom with other teachers who don’t know I use it, I get the same response, “Isn’t that just a game? Aren’t the kids just playing?”  Time and again I have had to hold my tongue and explain how and why I use it. So for those of you that don’t know my spiel, here goes.

In today’s classroom, the focus for our  students is curriculum, I am not disagreeing with this.  My students need to learn about how to add and subtract, how to write a proper sentence and how to read a paragraph in a “just right “book when they leave my room at the end of the year.  Unfortunately, for some of my students, these skills can already be challenging.  Even in these younger primary grades, students are already getting an idea of where they struggle or things they might not be as good as their friends are, they are coming in with a mindset that “Oh I am not good at that, so why bother.”  Many of them may, at times,  give up before they even start.

However, when I introduce Minecraft and how they will be using it to showcase their understanding of different things we are learning in class, it is amazing how many of them perk up.  They are surprised that they are going to be allowed to use Minecraft, something which many of them are coming in with an amazing set of skills already, and use it in the classroom.  I always start the year explaining how, at school, Minecraft is another tool in their toolkit. They will be using it to show me how they understand what we have been discussing in class.

For example, when I allow them to use Minecraft to build a house for a character in the book they are reading and they must be able to tell or explain how this house suits their character, many of my students do not hesitate, they jump right in. The wonderful thing is the conversations we have that really do show how much they are getting out of their book, whether they are still getting a basic gist of what is happening in the book or who their character is, or if they are really connecting and going deeper. A student who might find taking that same assignment and writing a journal about it may not give me the same depth of understanding because of the struggle they have putting pencil to paper.

Right now, I have been talking place value and getting my students to showcase their number sense.  We have started building a place value design in Minecraft and they have not had any problem transferring their knowledge of numbers into the Minecraft world. They are excited and the conversations they are having about their builds has given me a wealth of information about what they are understanding when it comes to numbers.

The bigger deal for me, though,  is how much more resilient my students are when it comes to using Minecraft.  Students who would quit in the first few moments will beg me for just a few more minutes to add extra details to their build.  They are much more willing to start over again if they have missed something or forgotten something in Minecraft.  My students are much more willing to try and figure something out on their own when it comes to this tool. They get more creative in their thinking, they are more willing to problem solve.

And the stories I could tell – of a student last year who never talked in class because she had social anxieties, but yet got up with her team and shared.  Don’t get me wrong, she shared very quietly, but she still was willing to get up there because she was part of a team who was very proud of their build.  I could tell you of another student who came in my first year at my new school who was reading very much below grade level and fought with me tooth and nail to write more than a sentence, but yet when I said would use Minecraft in class, he lit right up because he knew it was something he could do just like everyone else. He would be able to participate and not struggle, this was something he was able to do.  It did carry over into his other classes and he was a bit more open to trying, he didn’t feel “dumb” (something he shared with me in a private conversation).

I quite often end things off with the following question – why not use Minecraft in the classroom?  If it is because you are afraid, as the teacher, of not being the expert in the room because you don’t know what Minecraft is about or how to use it, then please don’t let that be the reason.  Your students will be more than willing to show you, they will be willing to be the experts that “teach” you and how powerful is that. Our goal is to help students become creative thinkers, problem solvers, and collaborators, and trust me, Minecraft is a tool that will more than help build on those skills.

On a side note, when I first came to my new school, three years ago, I was the only teacher using Minecraft in my classroom.  Fast forward three years later and I now have colleagues in the other grades and classrooms now using it as well.  They have seen some of the projects my students have done and have now started using it to showcase what students are understanding in math, social and much more.

So to answer my original question – yes, Minecraft is a game, but it can also be much more in your classroom, if you let it.

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

For those that have read some of my posts before, you know I am quite passionate about my love of books and reading and trying to instill the same love for books in my students. I have written quite a few posts about the different ways I have tried to develop this in my students and why I believe it is so important to give students a choice and voice in the books they are reading.

Today, I am turning things around and I am letting my students speak for themselves.  A few days ago I had my students write a reflection about themselves as readers.  I asked them to look back at themselves and share how they thought they had changed as a reader since the beginning of the year.  As well, I asked them what the best part of reading in our classroom was.  Here are some of things the things they had to share (and if you are wondering, I did talk to them about how I was writing a post about this and asked if they were okay if I shared some of their thoughts. Of course, they were thrilled that I would actually share what they said, that others might read what they had to say.)

“I’ve changed as a reader because I am reading harder books. I know I like funny books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I’m better at reading bigger words. I liked all the read alouds we did. I also liked when we shared our favorite picture books.”¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Rayahna

In September I didn’t like books much.¬† I only liked short books. Now I like books like Amulet and The Beaver Brothers.”¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Julian

“I really like how we can choose any book in the class library.¬† I usually like books like Ivan and Treehouse. In September I only read comic books.¬† Now I’m reading more types like chapter books and graphic novels.”¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Nathaniel

Last year I didn’t like reading at all, but now I like reading. Last year I barely read any books, now I can read for longer periods of time. I like reading in our class because there were no levels, we got to choose our own books to read. I loved how we did picture book skypes. ”¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Tina

“I used to read shorter, easier books and now I can read longer, harder books. I like that you can look in any bin, not just one bin.”¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Cara

“I like our reading corner because I like all the books.¬† I like all the Amulet books and the 13 and 26 Story Treehouse books.”¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Ryley

In September I didn’t like to read, but now I do. In grade 3 I like that we get to read around the room. I’m reading books with harder words.”¬†¬† Ava

I could continue on, but I am hoping the point is coming across.  I have tried to instil a love of reading by having book talks, having children share the books they are enjoying with each other, by skyping with other classes, by doing read alouds.  Quite often, I like to think that my students pick up on how much I love books when I share my newest finds that I find in the library and bookstores with them and it gets them intrigued in books as well.

And that’s from the horse’s mouth…..

No, We’re Not Crazy

I recently had a member of my PLN on twitter – my newest connection because of our love of Minecraft,¬†ask me the following question.¬† “We’re not crazy are we?”¬† The reason he was asking this was because he had recently tried to share the possibilities of using Minecraft as a teaching tool to other teachers in his district. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a tough sell because people weren’t as open to it as he had hoped they would be.¬† Funny enough, I had had the same experience just a few days before when I had done a similar presentation to a group of colleagues within my own district. While they saw the potential, they just were not as open to actually using it within their own classrooms.¬† So I felt for him because it was¬†a question¬†I could relate to.¬† He asked whether we were crazy, ¬†just ahead of our time or what.¬† It was something that stuck with me and¬†I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what he had asked me and these are a few of my thoughts.

Some will say “I don’t have enough time, I just have too much curriculum to cover and not enough for my students to play around.”.¬†¬† My response to that is you can gear a Minecraft project so it takes as much or as little time as you need.¬† My students recently were asked to build a city in Minecraft to show their understanding of arrays – a multiplication strategy they were introduced to in math class.¬† The project itself took 10-15 min of planning, two 30 minute classes of building and then today they started working through the cities to find out what their classmates had built and share the arrays they thought they saw.¬† So in total, it took probably the same amount of time it would have taken for the students to do 4-5 worksheets on arrays and then a quiz showing their understanding.

Some will say “How do I assess this?¬† How do I show the students understand the concept I was teaching”. Well, using my same Minecraft lesson my students showed their understanding in their plan, in the city they built then by the conversations I listened to as I worked through the groups and heard them talking about the arrays they were seeing and writing in their math journals.¬† They were engaged, they were talking math and they were seeing their math learning come to life in a way that was interesting to them and I could readily see those who were able to see and understand arrays and those who were still trying to figure them out.

Some will say “I don’t know Minecraft so I can’t use it in my classroom.” And my response to that would be that you do not need to be the expert. Do you need a working knowledge – yes, it will be helpful and definitely help you see the potential.¬† The more I work with Minecraft, the more I see how I can use it better with my students.¬† But am I the expert, do I know everything about Minecraft – not at all.¬† I am constantly learning, and my students are the ones who are teaching me.¬† And this is something that they are so proud of – being given the opportunity to teach and mentor me in something they are confident in, switching the roles has given my quieter students, my struggling students a voice which is a positive thing in my mind.

Some will say “Minecraft is just a game students play, there isn’t any real learning involved.”And to that I will say – my grade three students have had to learn the importance of collaboration.¬† They have had to make compromises, learn to work together, giving each other jobs to get the task done in the time given. They have learned to communicate – talking about the things they have built, sharing their learning in a variety of forms, written and orally. My students have had to learn to problem solve because the plans they came up with on paper did not translate when they started building.¬† They had to think creatively, work together to find solutions but as I have mentioned before it is amazing how willing they are to persevere when they are given the opportunity to use Minecraft.¬† And honestly I think these skills will take them much farther in their learning journey.

So back to my original question I don’t think we are crazy or ahead of our time.¬† We have just been willing to risk and try something new, something that is engaging our students. And at the end of the day that is who is the most important opinion – are our students open to the possibilities of using Minecraft to showcase their understanding?¬† The answer to this is yes, so that is the opinion I will focus on as I continue to learn to use Minecraft in my classroom.

It Started with a Pile of Cardboard

I love giving my students an opportunity to make things.  I have maker bins in my classroom – Lego, Knox, Playdough, marble runs and all sorts of other things that involve them working together to problem solve, collaborate and just figure things out.  However, I am also lucky enough to have not only one unit, but two, in my grade 3 science curriculum – “Building with a Variety of Materials” and “Testing Materials and Designs” where they are challenged to build something in the classroom and then test their design to see how it worked.

Last year my grade partners took a chance on a crazy idea I had and we had a giant cardboard arcade unit. (you can read about the experience here –  Our Cardboard Arcade Journey)  It was honestly a great project based learning activity and both my students and I learned a lot from it.

So when the time came around this year, there wasn’t much debate as to whether we would do this project again.  It was more how could we improve it.  The students were actually chomping at the bit to start – it was one of the first questions my students asked when they walked into the classroom, were they were going to be allowed to build their own arcade games this year too. (they had remembered going to the gym and playing them last year). So it was funny how quickly they all hit the ground running with this project.

Many started looking at YouTube videos to get ideas, many talked about how they had seen games they liked last year and were going to make them better this year.  And they were correct in those statements – the quality of the games my students came up with this year were more better than last year. We gave the students the same parameters in our expectations.  Their games had to be firstly functional – potentially over 150  people would be playing their games by the time the afternoon was done so it needed to be in good enough shape to play.  Next the game had to be sturdy – and we had long discussions as to what this word actually meant.  This was something that quite a few of the students found challenging this year – many of them thought that if they added more duct tape, then the sturdiness factor would just come.  The “less is more” conversation came up more than once during the unit.  But in the reflections after the build, quite a few talked about how they would have done things differently when it came to making their games sturdy so this was a good learning experience.  The last piece was the extra add on -making their game eye catching so that it stood out from the crowd of over 60 games that would be in the gym.  It was again a great learning moment when some realized that they themselves could be the eye-catching piece – that if they played their games or called friends over to try, that could be the catalyst that got people to come play their game versus another one.

I will warn you that while this unit is an amazing learning experience – it is not for the faint at heart.  My room was a mess of cardboard, boxes, tubes, tape, glue and much more for over a month.  I had to give up control of the room and just be willing to be okay with the organized chaotic mess (which was hard at times, I will not lie). But again the end result was I had students that were engaged and excited about their learning.  The ones who found things easy in some areas (reading, writing) were challenged by bringing their design to life.  Quite a few the design had to change because what they had on paper did not translate to real life.  Some had to persevere because their designs did not pass the sturdiness test and there were quite a few back to the drawing boards for some. But I saw student after student digging in and being willing to try, even those who if this activity involved doing it on paper would have given up long before.

On that final day when we had masses of students running around the gym trying out games the students had built, I saw happy and excited faces.  I saw quiet students coming out of their shells to talk about how to play their games.  I saw students who might not have been the best writers beaming because grade 6 boys were excited to play the game they had designed and built.  For me, the best moment came when one of my more challenging boys in my class came to life because his dad had taken the time to stop by for half an hour to see his game.  The memory of the smile that lit up his face will be one that I tuck away in my own memory box.

And that is why projects like this are important.  Why being willing to give up control and let my students just build, make a mess and figure things out is essential.  When we do these things we give our students meaningful learning experiences that they will remember.  And isn’t that at the heart of what we are hoping to do in the classroom??


How it all began


Getting kinderbuddies to test


Why I Readaloud

A few days ago someone shared the quote below by someone I greatly admire –  the great Donalyn Miller (and if you don’t know who she is, you NEED to follow her on twitter).

Readaloud 1

For me, this really summed up the reasoning behind why I do read alouds in my classroom.  I have a passion for reading myself and instilling a love of reading in my students is a goal I have each year.  I won’t lie, it can be a  challenge usually at the beginning of the year because many of them come from a more structured reading background – they are used to book bins full of books with letters on them, they are used to reading logs and reading response sheets.  What they soon realize is reading looks a bit different in our classroom.  I talk about finding “just right” books and how we are all on a reading journey where some of us will be in one spot and some of us might be further ahead or a little behind.  However, the one thing that will bring us together is a love of books, reading books, going on adventures, learning about new worlds when we open the pages of a book.

In the years I have done read alouds, my students and I have traveled through many stories together and met such amazing characters. There are some that have a special place in my heart though.  One such story I read was Stick and Stone, a wonderful picture book by Beth Ferry. This simple little story was so beautifully warm and funny.  It was amazing to see the connections my students made to the characters and how many felt they were like stone – a little quiet, a little shy but when the going got tough, they were there. Some felt more like stick – ready to stick up for a friend when someone picked on them.

readaloud 2

Right now, I just finished reading The 13 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and it’s funny. I was unsure whether I would read this story mostly because it was a silly book, far fetched and full of craziness.  But I felt it fit in with our building and creating theme, so I decided to give it a whirl.  Well, the laughs and giggles we all had together as we read this wonderfully nonsensical story were nonstop.  There was honestly times I had to stop reading because we were all laughing so hard we needed to take a moment just to stop and catch a breath. We were all honestly sad when the story came to an end.  It was quite entertaining to see what happened when I came in this morning and laid The 26 Story Treehouse on my desk because I went out and got it from the bookstore last night.  My students were so excited, yet perturbed with me because I explained we would not have time to start the book this day. I have promised we will start for sure on Monday!!

When you read a book together with your students, you are sharing your joy of reading with your class and it is something that will catch on.  Last year I read both The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The One and Only Ivan to my class, both beautiful books that are a staple of my class library.  For each, there are parts that are heart-wrenching to read and when we got to those parts of the story, you could have heard a pin drop all my students  were so invested in what was happening at that point in the story.  I won’t lie, I am a crier, so when I read these parts and the tears fell, my students were all like “Mrs. D. is crying!! ” One student actually got up and got me a Kleenex.  I explained to them that sometimes this happened to me when I get so close to a character, that it almost feels real and so I cry and that it’s okay to feel that way if the story brings that out. The rich discussions that came out – how many agreed that they were sad about what happened or mad that this or that happened was so great to share and hear.  (and for those that feel younger students do not have the maturity to connect or understand these tougher themes I offer this)

readaloud 3

readaloud 4

The great thing that came from doing these stories with my students is how they then went home and talked about these books with their families.  I had quite a few parents come to me to say they were going to go to the library to get these books themselves because they wanted to see the book their children were talking about so much when they came home. (and how awesome is that!!).

I guess at the end of it all, I do read alouds because it is a way I can connect with my students and hopefully install in them a love of reading in them too. And shouldn’t this be a goal we all have?

Another Step in our Minecraft Journey

For those of you that have read my blog posts before, you know I am a big fan of using Minecraft in the classroom, but I also try to use it in a way to bring my students’ learning to life. ¬†It was because of these two things that the newest project my students did came to fruition.

Around six weeks ago I came to my students with their newest challenge.  In our school district, we are in the process of building new schools because our numbers are expanding.  I explained to the students that one of the new schools would actually be built not that far from us.  I explained to them that if they could be the ones that designed the school, what things would they have, what would their school designs look like. This fit in very well with the beginning of our structures unit in science plus a multitude of other things like problem solving, collaborative and creative thinking skills and more.

I honestly started that simple, but as the weeks went on we had points where we stopped and discussed things to redirect them or ensure they were staying within the guidelines of the project. ¬†I asked things like what did their school have that made it special ¬†so that their design would be different than others, but more importantly why did they have some of the things they had. ¬†I wanted them to make sure that there was reasoning behind having things like swimming pools, soccer fields and I know this will shock many (not really) but roller coasters. ¬†This was challenging for some, having to look deeper at their designs to justify design choices. I explained it had to be something more than “it would be cool to have it in their school.”

The project did start out for many where they thought this would just be fun and play, but as they got into it further, many realized there were challenges.  Sometimes group members did not agree on design ideas, so I would often explain to them that I would only step in if I felt it was necessary. It would be up to them to find the common ground, so compromising was a new skill that came up in some of the teams.  As well, some found out the hard way that design ideas that sounded great in theory were much harder to put together in Minecraft or that it took a LOT of work to make the idea come together and work. What I loved was that groups would help each other out because most times one student would figure out the solution and then point out to those still struggling the steps to making it work which was awesome.

It wasn’t until halfway through the project that I came up with the Dragon’s Den idea and I honestly didn’t think it would come together. ¬†I thought how amazing would it be, how real world would it be for them to present their design ideas to judges a la Dragon’s Den. ¬†I would bring in “outside experts” to judge their designs as if they were presenting them in real life. Now at this point many of you would ask how did I make this happen. ¬†It wasn’t anything all that hard, I just put out some emails and asked. ¬†I felt it couldn’t hurt to ask and if the people I picked said no, then I couldn’t say I didn’t try. ¬†But lucky for me, these people had time in their busy schedules plus they were willing to come and see what my students had put together. They were all interested and intrigued with the project and the final designs. My three judges included the actual principal of the school being built, one of our district school design planners and a Minecraft expert.

Interestingly enough when my students found they were going to have to present to people other than myself many got worried and scared. ¬†They weren’t sure their designs would be good enough, some felt what they had to say would sound silly. ¬†So again there was a lot of discussion about why they needed to be the “voice” of their designs, why they should be proud of what they had put together and accomplished. ¬†It is funny that by grade 3 some of them already have this idea that they aren’t “good enough” to do things. ¬†I knew this would be a very big challenge for some to overcome, especially one of the students in my class. She was on a personalized learning plan because she was coded being selectively mute. She was not one to speak in front of anyone, let alone strangers so I was honestly unsure how this would all pan out. ¬†She had come a long way from the beginning of the year but in a way I was really asking much of her but I made sure she was in a good group that would step up if she didn’t feel she could and not make her feel bad about it.

However I am proud to say the day of the Dragon’s Den presentation my students did an amazing job. ¬†In their teams, they stood up and spoke¬†about their schools sharing the things that made their schools stand out. ¬†They were confident, articulate and great listeners of the judges’ ¬†critiques.

Dragons Den V

Judges sharing their thoughts on school designs


Dragons Den I

Judges’ critiques

As for my one student who I wasn’t sure would speak, well she surprised us all. ¬†I had talked to her group about whether they thought she would speak and asked if perhaps I gave her my FM mike that might help. ¬†And sure enough when the time came, she was “heard”. ¬†She was not able to actually look at the judges while speaking but she did share her ideas aloud and for many of the kids in the class this was the first time we actually heard her speak. It was honestly hard for me not to go out in the hallway and do a Snoopy dance during this moment.

Dragons Den VI

Indoor garden for the Nature School Design

Dragons Den VII

Science potions lab from the Fancy School design

At the end of the project I did ask my students to reflect on the following things including what had they learned, what they were proud of, what would they change.  The responses below validated the kind of learning that can happen in this type of project.

Dragons Den II

Student reflection I

Dragons Den III

Student reflection II

Dragons Den IV

Student reflection III

To end things off, I would say this project accomplished many curricular outcomes for me in science, language arts and more.  But more importantly it reinforced something I have always tried to teach my students in that they have a voice, they have important things to share and they deserve to be heard.