180 days of learning

180 days of learning

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Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. {Aristotle}

September 4, 2012

On a wall in The School of Inquiry’s integrated “red” room is a chinese proverb: Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.  This quote epitomizes the goal of SOI, which is to provide an experiential educational environment where students learn by doing and focus on authentic solutions to open ended questions.

Two weeks ago my learners were introduced to their first project in Leadership Institute with an entry event (video/letter) based on the following standards-based driving question: How can we as freshmen be active participants in self discovery so we can craft our journey in order to fulfill our “vision”? Yep, pretty vague, especially for freshmen! The learners were taken through PBL (project based learning) protocol which produced a list of need to knows and a list of workshops (lessons) they were requesting from me.   Their top need to know: How do I know what my strengths and weaknesses are?

As a PBL facilitator, sometimes you anticipate their need to knows, sometimes you don’t. Fortunately for me, this NTK was anticipated!  On day two of our project, my learners embarked on a 198 question (you read that correctly) VIA assessment that produced a list of each learner’s top 5 strengths and their 19 supporting strengths.  Once they obtained their list, I distributed this “Rainbow Card” that grouped the 24 strengths in their own strength families. Need to know done!

In a traditional classroom, I might have moved on to the next need to know on the student’s list.   They wanted to know their strengths and now they have them so we need to move on, right?  However, just having the students identify their strengths was not enough.  I wanted them to learn to spot strengths in others and consider how identifying and spotting their strengths and others’ strengths might impact their work in the School of Inquiry, where projects are completed in teams.  In the words of several of my learners, “Mrs. Felke, this is hard, you’re really make me think.”

Over the next two class days, my learners participated in multiple activities: Me at My Best (sharing of a pivotal story with a partner), 360 Degree Strengths Gallery (spotting and validating strengths in their peers in a fishbowl format), and finally Mapping their Team’s Strengths after formation of project teams.   In other words, they were truly learning by doing.  Each and every student was engaged, participatory, and they used their Macbook simply as a tool, not the focus, during these experiences. They were telling stories in the hallway and in the SOI flex space. They were circling the room with their peers during the strengths gallery. They were using markers and poster paper to visualize their team’s strengths.  They were active learners, using movement, discovery, and inquiry to accomplish these tasks.  Unbeknownst to them, throughout this process they were developing much needed life skills such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

We have had a lot of visitors since opening SOI and at the end of last week a visitor asked to talk with my students about their new learning environment, and more specifically the activities surrounding Smart Strengths.  I asked for a few volunteers from my second period and four hands flew up immediately.As the rest of the class was engaged in project work time, I moved throughout the room while I could see, but not hear, the lively conversation occurring with my students at the conference table.  After about half an hour, my students returned to their teams and I checked in with our visitor.  I asked him what information my students had shared.  What they shared with him surpassed my learning objective for these few days: {Indiana Power Standard:  PCC 6.0 Students will demonstrate personal skills needed for success in personal, family, community, and career aspects of life.}

They articulated their strengths, how being able to identify strengths in others and their team will impact them not just in my classroom, but in other classrooms, on the athletic field, at home, at church, and in all aspects of life. He said they spoke authentically about their own strengths and what they mean for their academic and personal development.  Mrs. Kelsey Flynn, our Director of Communications, was privy to the conversation from her desk, and confirmed the amazing discussion, which was a great validation of the time invested in those activities.

As SOI facilitator Michael Delp stated in his previous blog post:  {It may be unrealistic, but my ultimate goal is to never have to answer the question, “How will I use this in my real life?” ever again.  Hopefully because it won’t enter my students’ thoughts.} I think I can safely say, Mission Accomplished this week!

Jennifer Felke  – Facilitator/Staff Development Director – School of Inquiry

 I believe that PBL is the catalyst to engage our kids in authentic learning and prepare them for a rapidly changing future!


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Really nice post!!!! Char

Charlotte Tyree

September 4, 2012

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