It felt very different in my room today....although I've always done inquiry science it has been more teacher-directed than I wanted. This summer I took a class in "Unleashing Student Passion" hoping to find a better way....isn't that what you always do in the summer? Look back at what worked well and what you could improve....I picked developing more independent and critical thinkers.
This class, led by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (@snbeach) has been hard for me because it exposed so many places I want to be better. Not just a little better. A whole lot better. Unleashing student passion for learning and specifically for science is my targeted area. I needed to stop holding students back from becoming the learners they will need to be as they grow up....I have always helped them learn the science and be curious. Now I feel like I need to take another step....help learners not need me anymore.
Today I took a plunge with implementing what I've been studying all summer. It was hard because I wanted to be roaming the aisles looking for kids who needed help and encouragement. Instead I chose to sit back and let them do all that for themselves using the skills we had been talking about in these weeks of defining and building teamwork and being a communicator.
So we're working on those opening school skills making observations and data collection....yawn!!!! Oh no....no yawning if you please. I decided it would be the perfect place to test out some of these ideas Sheryl's been teaching. Besides we've spent hours talking about teamwork and defining what it takes to be a good teammate. Beyond being a team member, they're also working on communicating clearly....becoming a communicator. We've practiced body language and communicating with how we listen to each other. So it was time for me to step back, hold my breath and watch them put all they've been developing into action. While I've done inquiry before, this time I really , really let go. I helped set them up with the background knowledge and then I let them go....and they posed questions that seemed to interest them.
I also purposefully let them do it without me hovering. I told them I was strictly an observer of them today. I tried to empower them by not just telling but showing them that I trusted them to do the work. Although it was hard, I sat at my desk, never strolled the aisles, asking questions or answering questions. I sat there, intently concentrating on what they were doing and how they were interacting with each other.
Being present without being there
They knew I was present. That's been a big point of the learning I've done this summer. I was there without being depended on. Does that make any sense? But I think they were shocked at how well they were capable of doing and I learned so much about my students. I was able to spend almost the entire 45 minutes making notes about who were the leaders, who struggling, how they worked with their partner.....an enormous cache of information about each of them I can use to do my lesson planning. This valuable data will be the basis for the next lesson I teach. Many thanks to my wayfinding teachers---Lani and Dean---for showing me this lesson. I still have a long way to go but I think I'm getting it.
Ah.....how do I know they got anything out of the experience? By the questions they asked. Turned loose from teacher expectations, they investigated their own questions and then started exploring other things that were of interest to them. We started at the typical dropping water on a penny and counting them up
they started asking better and better questions....
They worked and worked at all these questions...some of which I was very dubious about when they proposed it. I'll admit that some worked and some ran into the troubles that I expected. But here's the big ah-ha for most people....they learned it for themselves now. It wasn't the teacher telling them "no" and here's why....they tried it, it didn't work, they re-grouped and formulated another question to test. It wasn't a big deal.
I'm hoping that builds up their learning muscles so when we get to bigger topics, they'll feel the same way about roadblocks they encountered that will be harder. This was the beginning steps students needed under their belt with a very simple activity.
Unexpected pleasures are usually the best ones just ask Sam and Ian
My biggest joy today was one of those goofy boy groups who you love and stresses you out all at the same time. They finished and sat there just seeing what would happen if---mostly making a mess until....
they discovered you could get a drop of water to "stick" to the penny even if you turned it upside down
Then everyone had to try and replicate the results....with that success under their belts, they starting firing off amazing questions. It was contagious. Success breeding success everywhere that hour. They measured the bulge of the water bubble over the side of the penny concocting amazing ways of using rulers!!! They conferred and shared and suggested alternative ways of doing everything. All the while they were engaged.
I wish you could see their faces beaming and shouting across the room..."Hey Mrs. R look at this!" and then moving onto the next thing and the next. I sent a big air high five across the room to congratulate them. These were their questions, their experiments and they owned it. Big time.
All because I got out of their way, and let them struggle a bit, so they could find their passion for learning science.
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