Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kids As Peacemakers

Following our study of the middle east region, students began an in-depth exploration of the historical and current events associated with the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the outset of this project-based learning (PBL) unit, students were advised of the guidelines as well as some of the challenges they might encounter and the potentially biasing role of word choice.  Learning how to identify and work toward mitigating biases has been at the forefront of this learning experience. Students have been presented with a variety of resource materials, points of view, and “what about” questions in an effort to offer resources that do not inherently prejudice the students’ thinking. Students are beginning to develop the skills needed to distinguish between reliable and questionable source material. Throughout their investigation and research of this conflict, they have been encouraged to use a FACT-PERSPECTIVE-NARRATIVE-YOUR TRUTH process to help them analyze and make sense of their research and become responsible consumers of information. 

Students have had the opportunity to explore this conflict from the perspectives of both parties, considering how their own lives might be similar or different from the lives of young people living in the area. At one point, several students were discussing the impact that the conflict has had on the day-to-day life of both groups of people. It was an interesting discussion to observe, particularly when they compared it with the impact of other challenges currently happening around the world and throughout history. Critical thinking + global mindset = WOOT! Another segment of this unit allowed students to participate in station rotation explorations, which included investigating the economic challenges, standards of living, military power, the effects of nationalism, analyzing an historical timeline (including maps) of the conflict in this area. These activities proved to help students deepen their understanding of the conflict and was where it all seemed to come together for them. 

This week, we moved to the next phase of the project. Students were assigned to one of four political parties (there is one conservative and one moderate party each representing both Israelis and Palestinians). They have been asked to adopt (for purposes of this project) the perspective of the political party to which they were assigned. The PBL essential question: Can peace be achieved between the Israelis and Palestinians?  Each party is working on creating a plan and proposal for lasting peace in the region; one which offers a two-state solution that establishes permanent borders between the countries of Israel and Palestine. Evidence, gathered from research, will be presented by all sides at the peace summit, as the four political parties try to reach consensus. Watch out, world. These students are determined to create a viable plan for peace. 

The peace summit will take place here at school later this month. Ms. Kosakowski, our digital literacy specialist, has graciously offered to record each class' summit with the hope that we'll be able to share them with parents soon thereafter.  Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Introducing Flexible Seating

Your children and I are very excited to introduce our new learning space, now complete with flexible seating.

As you can see, a classroom with flexible seating looks different than a traditional classroom that uses only desks and chairs.  Flexible seating options like buoy stools, swivel stools, balance ball chairs, stand-up tables, counters, floor tables, bean bag chairs and knee/floor pads offer students a variety of choices for seating options. The goal of flexible seating is to offer students choice and opportunities for movement and to help them find the type of seating that allows them to achieve maximum engagement, increased productivity and optimal learning. Choice seating is designed to be flexible and may change throughout the day depending on their needs or the type of work they are engaged in.  While there are many different options for seating, you will notice that all options (sans beanbag chairs) still allow for a table-based workspace for students.  Traditional desks are still available for students that desire or require more structured seating. 

So far, transitioning to our new learning space has proven to be a success in that there has been a marked increase in productivity and engagement, not to mention the fact that students are thoroughly enjoying the freedoms that come with choice and needed movement while learning.  

I want to take this opportunity to offer a special thank you to the P.T.O. and their Teacher Wishes grant program, as this endeavor was funded in part by their organization. On behalf of the children who are reaping the benefits of our new, 21st century learning space - THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Students assembling some of our new materials.

Working hard and enjoying their new space. 

Students celebrating the arrival of some of their new materials and the large empty boxes in which they were packaged.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Breakout EDU

Thanks to Mrs. Kosakowski and Mrs. Klipfel, our digital literacy specialists, students were able to participate in the ultimate Breakout EDU experience, using teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles related to map skills in order to open a locked box of treasure. It's similar to an "escape room" strategy. 

Breakout EDU games can be used to introduce a new lesson or concept, or to reinforce and strengthen learning. The games provide a student-centered learning experience where students use critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication to problem-solve and own their learning, apply their understanding of new content or even discover it.  One of the best aspects of these games is that they provide students with many opportunities to fail forward.  Every unsuccessful attempt to solve a puzzle and open a lock forces the player to try again. These geography-savvy sixth graders were determined to solve all of the puzzles within the allotted 45-minute timeframe. The first team broke the codes within 41 minutes and the second team broke them within 44 minutes - just under the wire!  It was just as thrilling for me to observe as it was for students to participate - it was wonderful to see them supporting one another as learners and persevering through the more difficult aspects of the challenge. Student feedback:  "Please, can we do another one soon?"  You can bet we will and next time, we'll level up!

Featured Article

Kids As Peacemakers

Following our study of the middle east region, students began an in-depth exploration of th e historical and current events associated with ...