Note: I was double inspired to write this post after a plastic product marketed to students to help them attach sticks together crossed my path. One of the many great questions that emerged during this project was “is it fair game to use non-native materials?”
My colleagues and I were challenged to create a Project Based Learning experience for students K-4 the last week of school. Since we were low on materials (all the classrooms were already packed up- long story), we decided to spend the week outside, with our guiding question being, “What do we need to live outside for the week?” What emerged was passionate and personal learning while experiencing the out-of-doors in a new way for everyone.
First off, Monday morning, it was raining, so we began with watching some clips of this Forest School video to help us gain some perspective over what was possible. It really helped that the children in the video were waaaaay younger than us. If they could do it, so could we. (There was NOT ONE COMPLAINT- not one!- and we spent three days out in the rain!)
So then we went about talking about what we needed. What struck me the most was that just about every kid raised her hand and said words like “teamwork!” and “collaboration”! They answered as if it was all settled- we’d go out into the woods and do the collaboration and some teamwork and BAM! we’d have food to eat. It seemed that that was the answer they had deemed correct at some point and so kept repeating it, without really digging into what that actually meant.
“But teamwork to do WHAT?” I kept pressing. Finally some realists piped up, “shelters!, food!, fire!, the rules- the rules of what we should do!” Ok, now we were getting somewhere.
After brainstorming and discussing it a bit more, we decided to divide ourselves into five groups:
Finally, we were ready! Out in the rain we went. Each group quickly got to work. The teachers texted each other throughout the experience, sharing photographs and videos with each other, while helping to guide the students and focus their thinking and questions.
Our final presentation of the project was giving a self-guided tour of the centers- the majority of the kids were still seriously focused on perfecting their projects. While some did put on the “Presentation Polish”, most were so busy STILL ENGAGED with the work, they barely noticed the tours!
We had a fabulous week together and each student and teacher really LEARNED and LOVED something new while working together in new ways- it was a blast!
Teachers on this project:
- Dominique DiMeglio and Susan Beshel (Food and Medicine)
- Elena Nickerson and Gaby Vovsi (Toolmaking)
- Stacy Cramer and Judy Shakespeare (Explorers)
- BA Cagney and Muriel Adams (Safety and Peacemaking)
- Carolyn Brougham and Heidi Echternacht (Shelters)