Exhibition Evening: Showcasing the Process
Starting up a brand new school is not an opportunity that many educators get in their lifetime. It was just over a year ago that I found out that I was going to get the opportunity, along with my new incredible colleagues, to open up École Sage Creek School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. What an incredible journey it has been thus far, and I’ve been loving sharing it with the world!
Almost two years ago, I attended the Summer Institute at High Tech High and as we toured one of the campuses, I was in awe of how they not only displayed their final products, but also showcased the process that went on behind the scenes. I became increasingly curious about their “Exhibition Evenings” and how they celebrated all of the learning that had gone on in and out of their classrooms. Last spring during our staff retreat, my new colleagues and I watched the thought provoking documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” which definitely lead to rich conversations. As we were preparing to open up a new innovative school, we knew we wanted to do what’s best for students, and not simply do things because “they’ve always been done this way”. As our discussions continued, we decided that we wanted to try something new instead of having our typical March “parent teacher conferences” or “portfolio night” and move towards an “Exhibition Evening”. We really weren’t sure how it was all going to come together, and if it was going to live up to what we had hoped that night would be, but I think it’s safe to say now that we are so thankful that we took this risk; the rewards were undeniable, and we now have an incredible base to build off of for next year’s exhibition evening!
Trying something new can be scary, but as George Couros reminds us “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing”. As the Exhibition Evening committee met, we discussed how this evening might look, how it was going to come together, and the logistics. On top of discussing our HOW, we also stressed the WHY, and made sure that the rest of the staff and students understood why we were going down this road. As Katie Martin explains in her book Learner-Centered Innovation,
“Taking the time to explore the benefits and understand why we need to change can have a dramatic impact on how educators see their roles and the power to improve learning for their students”.
After a brief presentation at a staff meeting about the importance of showcasing the process (which is often messy) and how one team was going to go about this evening, we were off and running. We planned with our students and figured out ways to showcase our learning to share it with our community, in ways that made sense to us. There was no right or wrong way, and there was no expectation that we all did this the same way. Creativity unleashed, we were all demonstrating our learning journeys in our own unique ways.
I am so unbelievably proud of our whole school. It was a moving evening where just about every space in the school was used to display learning. The students lead the show, and educators got to stand back, observe, ask questions, and take in all of the beauty that this evening offered.
My 1/2 students and I collaborated with the two 1st grade French Immersion classes to prepare for this evening. We decided that we would use our three classrooms as well as our wing’s learning common. Each class would have a theme: Our Favourite Places Writing Project, Our 5 Senses and the Brain, and Zones of Regulation and Self Regulation. What was incredible was that instead of simply showing off our finished final products, we also showed the PROCESS and journey that it took to get there.
Our Favourite Places Writing Project
Along with our finished writing pieces, was the Optimal Learning Model steps on chart paper on the walls, the students’ plans, drafts, and peer reviews.
Zones of Regulation and Self Regulation
For our Zones of Regulation video, the brainstorming, mini lessons, and the story boards were all on display along with the video.
We showcased our learning around self-regulation and some sensory tools we made in order to help calm ourselves. We decided to set up a station where students were able to show their families how to make their own sensory tools using flour and a balloon.
Our 5 Senses and the Brain
We also displayed many of our 5 senses activities, experiments, and lessons (including one that stemmed strictly from curiosity about tunnels… Thanks for your expertise Tamara Letter) to demonstrate how our learning evolved and tied into our learning about the brain.
I wish I would’ve taken more pictures throughout the night because students were just beaming from ear to ear showing their families all that they had learnt. After the night was over, I got a lot of great feedback from parents and students. Some parents who were skeptical of our innovative approaches to education were convinced after the night was over that what we’re doing works. Others gave praise about how the evening focused on celebrating their children, while having them completely lead their families through the night- they are so capable!! Finally, students came back to school the next day so proud to have been able to share so much with the families. I just love that the families got to celebrate not only the students’ final products, but also see and appreciate the process it took to get there. I love how George Couros put it in his blog post “In education, the process is the product,” and that is exactly what we tried to demonstrate at École Sage Creek School during our Exhibition Evening.