Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Community Plans

This post is part of the 30-Day Blog Challenge from TeachThought. To learn more about the challenge go to www.teachthought.com/teaching/reflective-teaching-30-day-blogging-challenge-teachers/.

DAY 23: Write about one way you "meaningfully" involve the community in the learning in your classroom. If you don't yet do so, discuss one way you could get started.

I'll be the first to admit I don't really involve the community in what happens in the classroom on a day to day basis. I send home weekly updates to parents of my students and post to a Twitter account for all of my classes (@MeyerScience). These don't even count as "meaningfully involving community in the learning", in my opinion though. So, instead of telling you all about the great things I'm not doing, I'll write about what we've got planned.

The 9-12 grade science teachers in my district (remember, there are only three of us!) dreamed up a plan over the summer that we would give our students the opportunity to link topics they're interested in to the things they're learning in class with unit "projects." This is essentially Genius Hour, 20% Time, Passion Projects, or whatever else you'd like to call it. We're just calling them "projects." I've spent the last day and half trying to help my students understand that:

A. Yes, you really can pursue any topic you're interested in for your project.
B.  I'm not trying to trick you when I say your "product" can be anything you want.

Yesterday, we watched a couple TED Talks about creativity, asking questions, and pursuing your curiosity. I also talked to them about my sons and how everything seems so fascinating when you're a kid. Today they worked through some goal setting. It's interesting to watch their reactions to this project. It's almost like they're so unfamiliar with the openness of the idea that their brains are literally frozen in place. They're really struggling with trying to decide what their projects will be.

For now, I'm just trying to help them move forward one day at a time. But looking into the more distant future, I'm hoping to have the students complete four small projects this year. Our goal is to have an exhibition of High School students' science work at the end of the year. Every student will choose their favorite project they completed during the year and "show it off" in some way at this exhibition.  I'm not sure exactly what it will look like yet, but it will happen in the evening when the majority of our community members can attend.

And then I'll be able to blog about how I've involved the community in the learning in my classroom, for real. Stay tuned.

Photo from Caroline on Flickr. Licensed by Creative Commons.

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