How to build up STEAM

Making time for making at Ottauquechee

makerspaces and project-based learningSTEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics — gives students the opportunity to create. To make. Maybe to fail. To try again! And to make something that improves a condition, solves a problem, or makes the world a better place. But if your school currently doesn’t offer a STEAM time, it can be daunting to figure out where to begin. And that’s where we pick up our story of Ottauquechee School, in Quechee VT, where we used Design Thinking, a portable makerspace and one amazing library space to figure out how STEAM Time could work at this school.

Welcome to Ottauquechee STEAM Time.

Continue reading

The #everydaycourage of trying again

Seeing failure as iteration

#everydaycourageA trio of students at Crossett Brook Middle School, in Duxbury VT, have spent the past two years building a go-cart. When their first cart snapped in half on its maiden voyage, the students took that incident as a challenge, and the next year, they figured out what had gone wrong, and better yet, what would make it go right.

And the results have to be seen to be believed.

Continue reading

What are the benefits of taking Genius Hour school-wide?

It’s a movement, not a moment

taking Genius Hour school-wideEvery teacher should consider making time for Genius Hour (sometimes called 20% time or Passion Projects). We know that when students are given the opportunity to explore their own topics, they gain skills in self-direction.

But I’ve come to believe that the ideal Genius Hour involves as much of the school as possible. Here’s what it could look like.

Continue reading

The student-centered art classroom

Structures to support student artists

student-directed learning at The Dorset SchoolArt is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”. To teach children that expression or application sounds like a lofty endeavor. But that is exactly what art teachers do in our schools every day.

If art is the expression of creativity and imagination, then we need new models. Because art is about voice and originality. There is no right and wrong way to express your vision and creation.

Continue reading

Learn Like a Pirate: Key takeaways

Katy’s 2016 Summer Reading

reflection for educatorsSomething about this book title and summer reading fits perfectly. The open ocean, pirates, and fierce independence. I’m hoping you have a bit of time to settle into some reading for fun and some that inspires you in the classroom to have students take on more leadership and develop their own independence.

Continue reading

20 time in the middle school classroom

Lessons learned from passion-based research

Passion-based research goes by many different names; 20% Time and Genius Hour are just two different terms that describe school projects that center upon personal inquiry and innovation to spark motivation in students.

For the past several years, students in my 7th grade social studies classes have engaged in 20 Time. Based on a framework employed by such innovative employers as Google, GE, Skype, and Apple, this four-month, decentralized unit provides students with 20% of their class time, or one day per week, to develop, research, design, test, and refine a project on a topic of their own choosing.

When applied within the classroom, this opportunity is meant to increase student engagement, independence, and responsibility, while allowing me to model explicit research and design skills, to provide an environment of entrepreneurship, and to give students access to feedback from authentic, real world audiences.

Continue reading

Self-directed learning and playlists

Curating lists of online resources for deep dives into content research

Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education Susan HennesseyWe have been spending much of our time here at the Tarrant Institute exploring the idea of what engagement looks like in a learning environment where access to resources is ubiquitous, where learning can and does take place anytime, anywhere.  That is why when Lisa Nielsen’s Learning without Teachers, Textbooks, or Tests – a Case Study, crossed my personal learning network (PLN), I perked up.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no interest in exploring a world with no teachers, but I could imagine one without the other two Ts in her title. I am interested in guiding others with robust examples of self-directed learning, or as Nielsen puts it, real-life learning ventures.

Continue reading

Personalized STEM learning at Essex High School

New podcast episode: Essex STEM Academy

student-guided stem learningIn this episode, we talk with math educator and STEM Academy leader Lea Ann Smith about Essex High School’s STEM Academy and take a look inside a program that lets students pursue projects in medicine, engineering, computer science, mathematics or biology — by working with community partners during the school day.

Continue reading