We have just finished a week where we took year 8 students away from the set curriculum and set them up in a much less controlled learning environment.
The students were given the task of convincing higher/alien beings as to why the earth should be saved from annihilation. The idea was for teachers to guide them but they, the students, would have to do the thinking. They would have to decide on a number of things that they were passionate about, things that they considered were part of the Earth and deserved to be saved. They struggled on the first day when they were deciding on topics and putting down the big questions, wquestions that they would later base their research around, and finally their persuasive pieces/presentations. The classes I went into were always totally absorbed in working though these problems. Many struggled with the idea that there was not one simple correct answer but, once they realised that they were being asked for their ideas and opinions, they started to gain in confidence. They, of course, had to back up their ideas and they found, in some cases, that they had to change their direction or emphasis. Over the next few weeks we will still be unpacking what happened and what worked, what didn’t, etc. In some cases we have taped some of the students verbal responses as well as the thoughts of a few teachers.
For me it was a week where students learnt about learning skills. Some of the best moments were when the students were given time to reflect on what they had been doing. They had many really interesting insights. I was also really amazed at just how many made comments to me, about what they were doing/gathering/thinking, about their work as they passed by me on the way to various parent/teacher interviews. These were students who were not technically my students, just students whose classes I had been in, at different times, to help the teacher. These students gave evidence as to just how engaged they were in their task.
There is a lot to consider and I will be jotting down my thoughts and observations about the past week but I am starting the weekend on a good note due to some of the great work that our kids did.