Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning. ~ Alfie Kohn
Where there are challenging times, there are also opportunities. When the NYS Education Department cancelled the Regents exams, I knew there was an opportunity to address the constraints that many teachers feel around preparing students for a predictable, yet anxiety provoking summative assessment that occurs at the end of every June. I challenged them to teach how they always wanted to and to engage students by making learning real, not just relevant... to have fun! Empower students by providing voice and choice... and shift from traditonal to authentic assessments.
After Week 9... I sent the faculty the following request:
Below are just several examples of student work, explanations from our amazing teachers, and anecdotes about learning from our incredible students. What you will see is that learning can be deeper, more exciting, and real when we empower our students. Our challenge is to remember what is working and carry that momentum into the next school year.
The examples below are a representation of amazing things going on in our "virtual" classrooms and in the homes of our students. Intrinsic motivation increases, when students own their own learning... Our clubs are meeting as well as, as is our student organization and class officers. School buildings may be closed, but we continue to seize the opportunity to making learning real!
Theater & Dance
One of the things that I worried about over the past couple of months doing remote learning was how to still be able to take "performance" classes and still keep them exciting. I think the fact that my students are able to be so vulnerable, and that they trust each other, is what allowed our classes to still do similar things on video as opposed to in school.
I really wanted them to be comfortable in front of the camera and the trust we built as a class really helped. The students are presenting, acting scenes, doing improv activities, working out, and dancing together!
One thing I really wanted to give them was choice. By giving them choices for projects, such as choreographing a dance number, writing a proposal to put on a show, set/costume and lighting design, creating theatre lesson plans (for our future teachers) and writing scripts/monologues, this allowed them to choose what they wanted to focus on and they were excited to create and share with us!
It makes me so happy and excited to see their faces and know that their passion for theatre and dance can still be exciting- even through a screen. Can't wait to be back together again!
-Ms. Oliveri (@AislinnOliveri)
The Webex (face-to-face) meetings with students have been awesome. The attendance has been great. I am constantly inspired by the students. They are present and willing to share. Of course some are having difficulties but even those students 'show up' for the class meetings.
Here are few of my and my students favorite assignments.
Please check out the link below.
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/scientists-have-turned-structure-coronavirus-music (Links to an external site.)
Scientist set the structure of Coronavirus protein to music. Which protein did they use?
What aspect of the structure did they use to set to music? Give some details.
But why would you set a virus to music?
I am looking forward to hear your impressions of music in our next class meeting. Please answer the above three questions either as text or upload your answers in a pdf file.
Many students were surprised at how calming the music was. The students were surprised to see that by combining totally different fields (music and science) that scientist could learn about the structure of this protein.
The Crown Education Challenge theme is:
Hope during a pandemic.
There are three tracks; Art, STEM, and Writing. Your choice! Do not feel obligated to choose STEM.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting millions of lives worldwide. Schools are closing, cities are locking down, and the economy is slowing. During this difficult time, we must remain hopeful. The Crown Education Challenge aims to encourage students to take a stake in this global challenge by responding to the theme of “hope during a pandemic.” The challenge is open for entries until June 15, 2020 at 11:59 PM PST. Please read the challenge rules (Links to an external site.) for more information. If you have any questions, visit the FAQ (Links to an external site.) page or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Assignments 2 and 3 are included because when I introduced these assignments, the students were very excited. Immediately sharing ideas and thinking about working in groups for at-home science (see examples above).
For hope during a pandemic, one of the students is planning on creating a dance to the cornoavirus music from the first assignment.
I heard the beginnings of rap songs, seen sketches of drawings and comic strips, and heard the beginnings of a story or scene from a play. I cannot wait to see the submissions.
In addition I have attached a presentation video that I ask the Advanced Research II students to upload.
- Dr. McGlade-McCulloh (@ellenmc2)
Chemistry & Physics
Physics and Chemistry teachers collaborated to create a group project for students to complete in lieu of a final exam. Students could choose who they would like to work with as well as what they wanted to do and how they were going to demonstrate their understanding. The groups choose a topic that they learned about this year (see project description below). Then they choose ONE of the following media (see project description below) to express the information and concepts from the assigned unit. There is a grading rubric attached as well.
-Mr. Musumeci (@Mrmusumeci_MHS)
-Mrs. Adamski (@mrsadamski1)
Project examples include a children's story, demonstration videos, comic strips, and a song.
Below is my Choice Week Project and some of the assignments I received from my student's. I wish I could send them all, it was the most responsive project to date and I was so impressed, and entertained while viewing their submissions!
- Ms. Gross (@MsGross_MHS)
The student and teacher work included in this post are a result of good questions, coupled with a lot of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking... and this is only a sample. It is time to keep the momentum going and continue to seize the opportunity to make learning real. These skills, along with a sense of community, are the ones that students need right now.
Finally, I leave you with a quote from Tom Murray (@thomascmurray) and a tweet from Mrs. Erika Meza (@MrsMezaMHS) to remind you that as we continue to push toward modern learning and the important skills our students need, we must always remember that remote or live, teaching and learning is all about relationships...
Whittney Smith, Ed.D.
Dr. Smith is the Principal of Mineola High School in Garden City Park, NY. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Ruth Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University.