The day before Thanksgiving break and kindergartners were re-enacting different aspects of the first Thanksgiving in Plimoth, Mass. That's a pretty standard activity at most schools this time of year. But add problem-based learning methodology to the mix and the learning becomes more than students making a construction paper pilgrim hat and Native American headress. In this podcast Kimmel Farm kindergarten teacher Shayne Madison talks with Barbara Kibler about a PBL lesson she wrote that took learning about Thanksgiving to a deeper level of exploration/learning. Music - "The First Emotion" - provided by Mindthings off the First Emotion Album via a Creative Commons 3.0 License.
Kimmel Farm Elementary needed a playground upgrade and Atkins Engineering and Design students needed a senior design project. The two schools are now partnering to create an authentic engineering/design project that hopefully will result in Kimmel Farm having a vastly upgraded playground. Atkins seniors will gain a portfolio for their Engineering Design and Development class.
The idea for the partnership came when Tonya David, an Atkins teacher whose child attends Kimmel Farm Elementary, saw the need for the new school to improve its playground facilities. David approached Leslie Eaves of Atkins School of Pre-Engineering, and an idea was hatched. New schools don’t come with playground equipment so the opportunity for both schools to benefit was obvious.
On November 22, Atkins students engaged in this project presented several playground designs to the student body at Kimmel Farm Elementary. Thus far, they have designed a survey for Kimmel Farm’s faculty, students, and parents to gain insight on what is wanted for the playground. They have researched existing designs with careful consideration to safety guidelines.
The Atkins students have already surveyed site elevations and measured the playground for square footage. The students also took photos and drew sketches of the current playground setup.
As part of this project, Kimmel Farm students have used 21st century technology to answer an online playground design survey to give Atkins students feedback on what they would like. The fifth grade students will participate in a problem based learning experience to address geometry and measurement goals to survey the site and measure the perimeter of the playground.
Kimmel Farm’s PTA has been involved in ongoing fundraising for playground upgrades. Individual and corporate sponsorships are sought as well.
Here's the video on this event from News14 Carolina, who covered the event!
In honor of Veterans Day Triad Fleet Reserve 217 was at Kimmel Farm Elementary November 10 to teach the history and significance of the American flag. Students in grades K-5 all learned about:
· The history of the flag
· How to properly fold the flag
· How and why the flag is displayed in different ways
At the end of each presentation, students received their own personal mini flag.
In Toy Story 3, Woody, Buzz and their their toy-box friends are placed in a day-care center after Andy, now grown, goes off to college. Andy is moving on, doing the admirable thing, following the track, continuing his education. He is following the accepted path for success to which most of us have long held. But for our current and future students will this be the pathway to successful careers in their futures? Certainly education will play a part, but what should this education empower us as learners to do?
After seeing this video from the dean of Pixar University, Randy Nelson, I wondered if the typical track (high school degree, college degree, post-graduate work etc.) is really going to be the one that generates future success. Pixar is the animation studios that brings Toy Story to life, and they have a very progressive way of working and looking for talent. Nelson talks about two core principles I believe would serve our students well as they learn here at Kimmel Farm - accept every offer, and make your partner(s) look good. It's that kind of collaborative spirit that has made Pixar a success.
It's no longer enough to have a strong resume. Nelson speaks of the promise of a resume versus the proof of a portfolio. His comments prompted me to ponder how we look at the "success" of our students with the snapshot of an End of Grade Test (a resume), versus how much deeper we could go with an ongoing portfolio assessment. There's a lot here to think about, and it's worthy of reflective thought. For more, here's the link to Edutopia with insightful comments from educators.
Food for thought.
On Wednesday, April 28, 2010 Kimmel Farm's kindergarten and fourth grade students participated in a collaborative learning experience. Kimmel Farm Elementary and Asheboro High School's Zoo School teamed to provide a mutually beneficial virtual field trip with a focus on polar animals and animal adaptations.
Asheboro High School students were the teachers, and created a slide show presentation to share with Kimmel Farm Students, which we showed on our flat panel plasma display. Our video conferencing was accomplished using Skype. It was great to see students working together to teach and learn and it was the first attempt at pulling off a truly 21st Century learning experience. We also Ustreamed this over the Internet so classrooms all over our building and worldwide could tune in to see what was possible.
The experience wasn't without it's technological issues, but overall it demonstrated what kind of learning community we strive to create here at Kimmel Farm Elementary. This was a powerful way to engage students and create an opportunity for Asheboro High's Zoo School students. Special thanks goes to Heather Soja, head of the AHS Zoo School, for working with us for quite some time in getting planning this event. We hope to continue to provide these kinds of experiences for our students and enjoyed partnering with AHS!
Thursday, April 15th Kimmel Farm Elementary became just that - a farm. Cows from neighboring property got free from their pastures and made their way onto school property. They were corralled in our school's playground area and the owners came and took them home. The visit from the cows prompted one kindergarten student to ask if it was our school's Chick-Fil-A night. It was quite a site, and just another highlight from our first year in existence. Here's is the blog post from Mrs. Ellington's class blog written to record the event for posterity.
As I was teaching math Thursday morning, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I saw about 6 cows come up over the hill into our bus parking lot. It was a sight to be seen and so was the excitement in my students. They were amazed to see cows right outside our classroom window. The cows made their way to the back of the school and luckily ended up in our fenced in playground area. Of course there were frantic teachers (me included) running outside to capture this miraculous moment with digital cameras and flip videos. This was the most exciting teachable moment I have ever witnessed. Needless to say, the rest of the day was all about COWS!! Now we know why our school was named "KIMMEL FARM!!!"
Kimmel Farm Elementary presented Integrating Technology Into Problem-Based Learning at the 2010 NCTIES Conference held in Raleigh, NC March 3-5. Here's our presentation complete with the video showing Barbara Kibler's kindergarten class engaged into a PBL lesson.
On Thursday, March 4 2010 I was named the North Carolina Technology Educator of the Year as awarded by the North Carolina Technology in Education Society. The presentation was made at the Raleigh Convention Center at the Keynote Luncheon featuring, famed educator Ron Clark. The award presentation was given by my colleague and friend Julie LaChance, who won the award last year. Award winners were not given time to speak due to time constraints, so here are my remarks which would have been delivered. They are words that need to be said.
I've never been very good at receiving recognition, but a wise person recently told me I should learn to take compliments by just saying Thank-you. So, thank-you to the NCTIES Board for this honor. I am humbled to be included in this community of talented educators, and in many ways this just means I'm getting started.
I must thank Julie LaChance for nominating me. She saw things in me I didn't see in myself, and I'm honored to call her a professional colleague, and also a friend.
There's a bit of irony in me receiving this award. After 10 years in the regular classroom I was burned out and almost decidedly getting out of education. So technology, and my shift to educational technology is the reason I'm still in education today. In short - it revitalized me and saved my career.
After I learned instructional technology was where I was meant to be I set out to be the best I could. I've been driven to learn a little more every day, collaborate within my school, district, state, and globally a little more each year. My push is to provide the richest learning experiences for our students, because ultimately that's when they are fully engaged learners.
What I've been able to achieve has truly been a collaborative effort. I had my role, but none of the things I have attempted would have occurred without genuine support. Thank-you Dr. Betty Weycker and Kevin Sherrill for your ongoing leadership and guidance. Our ideas and dreams were also made possible because of the support of our district's Director of Instructional Technology Marlo Gaddis and her staff.
Marlo has been a source of inspiration, an accomplished professional, and a loyal friend. Thank-you for your undying support, expertise, and willingness to start something unlike anything our district had ever attempted. Colleen, Melisssa, Delea, Emory, Thelma, Evan, Brian, April and Angie - I appreciate you and know you're always there for me.
I want to thank my colleagues at my previous school - Bolton Elementary, for sharing my vision, staying the course, and signing on to be trailblazers with our initiative -Teach21.
I am now very blessed to work with a truly outstanding group of educators at my current school - Kimmel Farm Elementary. They have been fearless in learning and implementing technology, and working to build a special learning community in a brand new school. Thank you to Carolyn Layton. I possibly would not be at Kimmel Farm without you. Thank-you to our Principal, Gaye Weatherman - who is a visionary in her own right. She has led us well, focusing on only two goals in our first year - technology integration and problem based learning.
My first grade teacher, Kathy Priddy, is also here to share this moment. We now work together at Kimmel Farm and I'm still learning from her.
In closing I want leave a thought and a challenge. When you are asked to compose your educational philosophy it often becomes nothing more than teacher-speak. It's taken years but I now hold true to my philosophy knowing it's a genuine belief. Learning is self-directed and social, and that means it must be connected - to other people. Most importantly learning must be relevant to the world in which our students live. Technology gives us the tools to bring together all those elements.
My challenge is to you. A colleague of mine recently asked me how I continue to stay so positive. My response - if you want to be an educational leader you must possess an unrelenting optimism. You're going to learn so much here in just two or three days and become energized. The ideas will always be there - on Nings, Twitter, on wikis. But if you take nothing else back with you from this conference take with you unrelenting optimism. Your colleagues will notice, it's infectious, and that will ultimately create the climate for positive and immeasurable change.
Sam Walker - Technology Facilitator
Most experts agree the average adult attention span is 20 minutes. That's it - 20 minutes. So why was the Kimmel Farm Elementary's faculty able to maintain positive engagement at its second PBL professional development training for more than 3 hours? It's possible there are three reasons - and they're featured in Dan Pink's book Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
This training focused on facilitation, observing it from the learners point of view. The PBL experience used to teach us about facilitation was a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery where each learning team worked together to try to solve the murder based on letters, facts, witness accounts, etc. The ultimate goal was to come up with plausible and defensible theories as to who did the deed, how they did it, and why the act was even committed. As it turned out not one learning team completely solved the mystery, but that's not what was important. What was important was learning how to manage the process, how to facilitate learning by answering questions with questions, and how to guide students in the right directions to achieve stated learning goals.
After getting a very basic set of directions each group had the autonomy to go about the process their own way. Some read aloud, others wrote on legal and chart pads, some drew maps of the crime scene, while others just analyzed information. Everybody was given opportunity to play to their strengths. Nobody was told what to do next. The challenge to solve the crime provided the element of mastery.
Mastery requires effort and deliberate practice, and it’s impossible to fully realize which makes it simultaneously frustrating and alluring.
Any time a school tries something new there's always a level of apprehension. Change is inevitable, but in most cases necessary to move forward. Before we began staff development with Problem Based Learning we surveyed the staff to gain insight into their level of experience and comfort level with the process and yes, there existed a certain level of apprehension. I think that's now gone.
I found the PBL approach to be very interesting. This is my
first exposure to it and I am thinking of how to adapt it to my classroom setting, but I am sure that it can be done with great results. I must say, one of the better staff development sessions I've ever been in.
What excites me most about what Kimmel Farm is doing with PBL is the level of commitment, engagement, and excitement everyone is bringing to the table. It is about doing what we know is right for students in order to make them lifelong learners.
I am excited to integrate PBL into my classroom because I feel it will involve and engage all my learners, especially the ones who are usually shy and try to go unnoticed.
This process seems like it lends itself very well to utilizing the tech and media center resources. I'm excited to work with a highly motivated and professional staff to show results in education can be achieved if one used the right methodology and breaks out from the mold.
I'm blessed to be part of a team of teachers AND administration that can step back and think outside the box when it comes to educating young people. Most importantly everyone is willing to jump in and do whatever is needed to meet our shared goal of being the best teachers we can be. I sat many times in my graduate classes last year and listened to other teachers gripe that the schools they were at did not support teaching that pushed the standards of what we are all used to and here I am at a school where EVERYONE is willing and eager. I think PBL is a tool that will make us all better teachers and most importantly our students better learners.
It is AWESOME to be at a school where we will all be teaching PBL!!!!!! Imagine teaching students to think outside the box and become problem solvers. AMAZING!
Sometimes it is hard to me to believe that as a new teacher I am privileged to be a part of such an awesome learning environment. I am so excited about the PBL implementation here. Not only am I excited to see what the kids in my second grade classroom can do with this style of learning, but I am excited to know that I will be able to carry on a conversation over the dinner table with my own children about they will be learning the their experiences with PBL. I am truly blessed to be a part of Kimmel Farm.
As I sat and listened to the staff work through their first PBL problem, I felt so honored to work among such talented and creative people. I was so proud of how well we all worked together as a unit. Responses were so thoughtful and everyone was truly engaged. I think that if it engaged us as a staff it will truly do amazing things for our students. I have loved PBL for such along time and am so glad to share my love and passion with my fantastic colleagues! I look forward our next sessions together and can't wait to see us grow even closer from this staff development!
Photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr