I recently read that if you aren't keeping your students engaged you might as well be talking to a brick wall. As an educator who has been around for a while I find there's a lot of truth in that statement. There are many definitions of what it means to be a 21st century school, but really what it all comes down to is keeping students engaged in authentic, real world learning tasks. The timeliness of this Edutopia article entitled How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class was too relevant to many of the collegial discussions we've been having at Kimmel Farm Elementary. I had to blog about it. I think it applies to every educator at every level, and while there are some tried and true methods outlined here, there are some new ones that I'm going to try. (Photo courtesy wooleywonderworks via Flickr under a Creative Commons 2.0 license)
How often do five year-olds engage in the political process? Probably not very often. But here at Kimmel Farm Elementary one kindergarten class is already lobbying for policy change at the state level. It involves protecting the honey bee.
After the class pumpkin plants failed to produce pumpkins, Mrs. Madison's students decided to investigate why. Using the model of problem based learning Mrs. Madison shared books, and researched with her students how pumpkin plants produce pumpkins. It was a truly authentic educational process. Their conclusion was there were no honey bees to pollinate the plants, and without pollination no pumpkins can grow. This extended the lesson, prompting student-driven research about how important the honey bee, our state insect, is to agriculture and our economy.
The concerns were forwarded to our school's Curriculum Coordinator, Carolyn Layton, who recommended the class contact Governor Beverly Perdue to report their findings and lobby to protect the honey bee. Kimmel Farm's Media Coordinator, Walter Carmichael, has a wonderful post on his blog detailing this project entitled Problem Based Learning is at Our Core. The video appeal from Mrs. Madison's class to help our honey bees is here.
The facts and figures change rapidly, but the trends and themes outlined in this video make the case for
- educating our students in an environment that is problem based
- requires critical thinking
- requires oral and written reflections
- teaches students how to use technology (integrating their oral and written reflections)
- and is "connected" - globally.
The video is courtesy of The Fischbowl - Karl Fisch's blog. Karl is Director of Technology at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado and he is certainly a leader when it comes to forward thinking and 21st century school development. He, along with Scott McLeod, JD, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota have worked on developing the "Did You Know" series of presentations to keep us all looking at "the big picture. They've been used as conversation starters all over the world and especially in schools who are thinking about where we are headed. Watch and reflect. What does all this mean for students - even at the elementary level?