Learning and Innovation #IMMOOC #LCInnovation
I am so fortunate to work in a school where we are encouraged to go deep and develop essential life skills instead of simply skimming over all of the content which never leads to much learning that sticks. We are told that it is okay if we don’t cover it all, but instead to do what we do well, in depth, and connect it authentically so that the learning lasts a lifetime. Too often, educators just focus on compliance, which isn’t the only thing that the world needs anymore. Katie Martin reminds us in her book Learner-Centered Innovation, that the world “demands citizens who are creative, imaginative, and innovative” therefore it’s imperative that we “ignite curiosity and passion” not extinguish the spark before it has a chance to become a flame. I also love this quote by George Couros, from his book The Innovator’s Mindset:
Thankfully, I am surrounded by incredible educators every single day who are always building on students’ curiosity and passions, which leads to some powerful and authentic learning. This year more than ever, this has been evident in my own classroom as we’ve been diving deep into themes and incorporating many standards from different curriculum. While my focus is always mindful of the curriculum, I also know that teaching essential life skills is imperative in the classroom.
Empathy isn’t something new to my classroom; it’s something that I’ve been intentionally working on with my students for several years now. Currently, we focus on mindfulness, self care, zones of relations, understanding our emotions, etc. We’ve also been learning a lot about our brains and have tied our 5 senses into this learning. We are very excited to show our process and showcase all of our learning during our exposition evening later this month (note that I didn’t say that we are just showcasing the cleanly edited and perfect final products, but the messy PROCESS in our learning).
On Friday, the students were tasked to create a sensory tool that would help them calm down by focusing on 3 of their 5 senses. We researched, planned, brought in materials, explored, shared ideas, and collaborated throughout the week, and the moment finally came where the students got to CREATE (they’d been asking and begging for this moment each day this week). Sure, I could’ve guided the students through the exact steps and measurements to make their slime, but I didn’t. Yes, I could’ve created a sub-group with all of the students who planned to build a sensory bottle and had a parent volunteer help them through the process, but I didn’t. I could’ve provided answers, but instead asked more questions. I could’ve structured everything in order to guarantee that every student would have an incredible and functional sensory tool by the end of the day meanwhile also avoiding an incredibly messy classroom, but I didn’t. The students had free range to create the tools THEY wanted with the materials THEY chose to follow the vision of THEIR mindset.
The process was messy, oh was it messy! But the learning that happened through the constant exploring, tinkering, trying, experimenting, failing, critical thinking, problem solving, collaborating, and reflecting, was so powerful. Not every student had successfully created a sensory tool by the end of the day Friday, but we are just beginning. Next, we will continue our reflections and discussions to trouble shoot and problem solve because we plan on having expert stations at our exposition night where students will showcase how to create a variety of sensory tools. The students will have to continue this messy learning process and continue to tweak their prototypes to find the best ways to reach a final product that does what it’s supposed to do. Then, we will also be creating some sensory tools for our Entrepreneurial Adventure school wide project. I can’t wait to reflect further with my students next week to truly examine their tools and delve deeper into our successes and how we can improve on our process moving forward.
Through this messy process that they’ll surely remember for a long time, the most powerful learning that happened wasn’t curriculum based, although that was definitely part of their learning. When I think of all of the essential life skills that they worked on through this process, I can’t help but smile. Behaviour issues were nearly none-existent as everyone was empowered in their learning. I saw students helping and encouraging one another, working together, problem solving and collaborating, taking risks and supporting one another. It was so beautiful to see! I love this quote by Katie:
“When we tell learners to compete an assignment, we get compliance. When we empower learners to investigate how to make an impact on the world, we inspire problem solvers and innovators.”
We know this! We know that we must do more than simply have compliant and engaged students, but are we acting on this knowledge? Are we deliberately DOING something: shifting our mindset, taking risks, and creating the conditions that are critical to support learning and innovation? How are you empowering your learners? How are you empowering yourself?