Innovation Week 5 planning at Greystone Centennial Middle School (GCMS) began Friday morning for all students in our school (grade 5 – 9) interested in inquiry, project-based, problem-solving and the innovative creation process. We have a unique opportunity at GCMS to implement this incredible week-long program that challenges students to question, investigate, process, create and share in teams on areas of deep interest.
This video created by our Assistant Principal Jesse McLean from previous Innovation Weeks held at GCMS showcases the incredible things that can happen when students are provided with the opportunity to explore their curiosity for the world around them:
The theme for Innovation Week 5 is “How Do I Learn?”. Innovation Week allows students to take away a greater understanding of themselves as learners and how sharing their learning while being open to receiving and providing feedback will allow for growth. It ties directly with Alberta’s Cross Curricular Competencies. Innovation Week provides our students with opportunities to experience one or more of the following competencies:
Know how to learn
Identify and solve complex problems
Demonstrate good communication skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others
Knowing just how powerful of a learning experience this would be for our students, we worked together as a team to learn. Students who wanted to work in groups split themselves up amongst their peers’ classrooms and teachers worked with individual groups.
Teachers then guided them through the Design Thinking process to create a proposal based on the following criteria created by our Educational Design Team at GCMS starting with our Inquiry Process:
What is your guiding question?
What is your plan for the project?
What will you do to prepare for your project? What research or preparation will you need to do? What resources will you access?
Will you connect with an outside expert? If yes, who will your expert be? How will your expert assist you? How and when will you connect with your expert?
What will you need to move from the preparation to the action phase for your project? How will you move from research to actually creating your project?
Materials you will provide
What will you create as a final product?
Who is your audience and how will you present your learning?
This may seem like a straightforward task, however it was quite a challenging prospect for students to think outside of the box and in most cases to think like the box doesn’t exist. Some knew what they wanted to explore, create or learn more about but found it difficult to explain the why and how.
To assist them with this process, upon completion of their proposal, students were guided by teachers through the Ideation and Prototyping stages. They used the guiding question they developed and were challenged to come up with 100 ideas to help answer it in a constrained set of time.
This is what happens when time constraint is used in a manner in which to fuel learning and processing for the first time:
The ideation process was so intense to watch that I knew I had to take some video to demonstrate just how powerful the right amount of pressure to generate as many ideas and solutions can be:
At the time we had about 15 students in the room and the grand total of ideas geared towards their projects in 10 minutes of ideation was an outstanding 852!
The power in this was that it allowed the students to tap into their brain processes. They focused on generating more and more ideas with a guiding frame of “Yes, and… ” instead of “No, but…”. I found that the time constraint helped to break through the barriers. Some used strategies of movement, others spoke out loud while partners furiously wrote, others wore headphones and tapped into their own minds.
We then went back and reflected on the ideas. We knew that some were going to be silly or not very applicable, but there were many that would be useful. They then drafted a prototype of their project, which along with their circled top ideas, lists of ideas generated and proposal, was submitted for approval.
I am so excited to see this process go into action as Innovation week officially begins the last week before our holiday break from Dec. 15-19th. All participating students will spend that entire week working in teams with teacher and expert guides on their projects. Students will be blogging reflections on their learning process and our theme of “How Do I Learn” daily to share with the world and on Friday Dec. 19th, we will host an open Gallery Walk to showcase their projects to family, school and community members.
November has flown by in our room and we are looking forward to bringing together all of the incredible projects and learning we have been doing this term.
The following is an update on the activities happening in LC5B!
We have started a group read- aloud on the book “Out Of My Mind“. Its an incredibly powerful story of an 11 year old girl diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and the social and academic challenges she faces. The students have made some deep connections with the main character and are learning how to express empathy and understanding. I am reading this book to them and together we are discussing our thoughts and feelings. The students have also started to blog their own questions and understandings.
We are continuing with our daily reading and ensuring every student has access to reading materials reflective of their interests and ability. Please do let me know if students are not bringing any material home for additional reading time when possible.
We are shifting our main focus to multiplication now, however place value and estimation will still be a continued focus year-round to ensure understanding. The students are also meeting in three smaller groups for two periods a week with Mrs. Krefting’s class to work on combined skills and we continue with our problem of the week every Friday.
This week’s problem was called Grasshopper Jump Fest and I was so proud to see everyone just dive into solving it in their own ways. Students have now built the confidence to attempt problems without fear or hesitation from the work we began at the start of the year. We are working now on how to explain our thinking and how we are actually solving problems. This involves a strong understanding of one’s own strategies and how and why they applied those.
A few of the students were so proud of their process and in demonstrating their understandings that they asked me to video them solving the problem. As you can see below, some succeeded and the ones that didn’t during this taped version, continued on despite that fact and then refined their process with the feedback from myself and their peers. At the end of our lesson, they had all achieved success and began their reflection blogs.
We are wrapping up our units on Electricity and Magnetism. The students are working on their final projects which is to build a mechanism that features a working circuit and an element of magnetism. They have all done their research and will begin to plan their experiments this week. Our next unit is weather which will be a year-long focus as weather is happening every day around us. We have started watching and interpreting the weather radars on the weather network as well as tracking weather systems heading our way and globally. The students were fascinated by the extreme snow conditions in Buffalo, New York last week and began to question how being surrounded by lakes causes a Lake Effect. They also started to make connections between that and our location in Alberta versus British Columbia.
The students are now working on putting together their presentations with the information collected from you about their histories and heritage. They refined their questions and understandings last week and started exploring different presentation options. They were provided with a few technology tools as well as poster and paper options and were asked to choose which style worked best for them to represent their families’ story.
We love art in LC5B! Its never an easy task but it allows for students to demonstrate their own creativity. We worked on the use of chalk pastels and the aspect of defining space. Students are often asked to fill in every piece of a project and not to leave any white spaces, however with our chalk pastel pieces, that white space helps to define texture. Students were pushed and directed to actually colour outside of the lines and to make their images rough and not refined.
I just wanted to share just how deeply we are engaged in reading in LC5B. I am so proud of the independence shown by the students in updating and managing their GoodReads accounts. I am always so delighted when I log in in the evenings to see them rating books they’ve read, updating page numbers on books they are reading, recommending books and reviewing them.
We are learning that reading is FUN and it can take us anywhere we want to go!
We have been working very hard in LC5B learning about electrical mechanisms, circuits, batteries and just how electrical circuits operate.
This is a fairly in-depth unit and the students and I have approached it with inquiry in mind. We are surrounded by electricity, but just how does it work and how dependent are we on it? LC5B had come up with so many questions which we have taken the time to research and learn about what we wondered.
Last week we had failed attempts at implementing a working circuit, but our focus at that time was on the process and how to continue to try alternatives when coming face to face with a failed attempt. This week we focused on applying the skills and knowledge we had learned about functioning circuits and attempted to put them to test with our circuit boards.
Students chose partners they felt they could work best with and each group was provided with an operating circuit board and the cell batteries students were asked to bring at the beginning of the year. I didn’t provide them with any further instructions other than to make their circuit operate. We had built the foundations of what an effective circuit requires in order to function, and now they had to apply this knowledge. This was the best piece of assessment of learning as students were quick to begin and were incredibly focused and determined on getting their circuits to operate, and they applied their understandings of insulators, conductors, switches, cells and voltage. They were also 100% comfortable in explaining how and why their circuits were or were not working, which allowed me to see their understandings in a natural setting.
They explored, they pushed, they clipped, unclipped and re-clipped….and may have burnt some bulbs…but they were learning!
I hope you can see and hear their excitement below: