Students are given a topic, write their share on a piece of paper, crumple it up and toss it into the center of the circle, and then when directed, pick up a "snowball" from the ground and reveal the share of some other student. This morning I set the topic as "I'm happy at school when..." Here is what I heard:
- school is not boring
- we have time to talk
- classes are fun
- I see iPads
- it is almost time to go
- we have recess (this was mentioned twice)
- when we're in PE
- we have Hot Lunch
- we're doing interactive work
- we don't have a lot of homework and everything is done
Our faculty believes, and Developmental Designs and our Middle School Vision both support, the idea that school should be engaging and fun. We believe opportunity to play is developmentally appropriate and thus our schedule has both recess and PE. We are also continuing to embed student choice into classwork and creating lessons like the Transient Transfer project where students have an opportunity to "talk" in educationally constructive ways.
We have an advisory system, academic counselor, student counselor, and chaplain to help identify the ways we can help the student who most looks forward to going home. We also offer study halls during the school day so students are able to get a head start on their homework. Finally, we rolled out the iPads to the students last week, so they will become a more integral part of the student experience in the middle school.
Most of the answers above speak directly to the type of 21st Century learning we've been reading so much about. They want to collaborate, they want to be engaged and have fun, they want to use technology, they want to opportunity to play and interact with the content, they want a sense of accomplishment and purpose in the work they do. All of this is what gets them into the "flow" - that state Carol Dweck has named where motivation meets purpose at the sweet spot and quality learning and creating happens.
Tomorrow we will be asking all the students in the middle school to complete a Student Climate Survey, which will allow is to identify issues we need to address, applaud successes, and continue to refine how we teach and learn. Stay tuned for some form of the results.