Aug 16, 2016

Kindergarteners as Engineers

Kindergarteners practice design engineering
Kindergarteners practice design engineering

How early do young engineers begin honing their design skills?

I recently visited the classroom of one of our Science Teacher Leaders, where students begin this work as young as 5-years-old. In this kindergarten classroom in northeast DC, our Science Teacher Leader recently began an extended engineering project that started with simple design and construction experiments and will culminate in students designing and building “plant packages” that will allow plants to grow and survive while being shipped long-distance. Along the way, students will learn the steps of the engineering design process, as well as important science content such as what differentiates living and non-living things and what plants and animals need to survive.

When I visited the classroom, I was happily surprised by the zest and perseverance with which young learners tackled their projects. “Let’s make it 50 inches!” one excited little girl exclaimed as she worked with her team to build a tower out of notecards and tape. It was especially heartwarming to see the level of enthusiasm for engineering among the students in this classroom, all of whom come from groups that are currently underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Experiences like those offered in this class are expected to change those statistics in the future.

This classroom is an example of what can flourish in a classroom when Center for Inspired Teaching teams up and coaches teachers in local public schools. As the Science Teacher Leader of this classroom in northeast DC puts it, “Inspired Teaching has changed the way I think about and teach science in my classroom.”

May 19, 2016

My First Visit to the Inspired Teaching School

As an intern with Center for Inspired Teaching, I have gotten to work, play, and dance with Teacher Leaders over four intensive weeks at the summer session of the Inspired Teaching Institute, I have curated and captioned engaging classroom photos, and I’ve helped design events.

Last month, I had the most captivating experience yet. On a visit to the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School, I got to see what it looks like when Inspired Teaching is infused into every classroom. As I walked into the building I expected it to be like my elementary school: students sitting in their desk, in total silence, as the teacher lectured. It was totally different – in a great way!

The visit began with a short introduction to Inspired Teaching. School staff discussed how the school’s goal is to build the 4 I's in every student: Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity. 

Immediately, I began to notice evidence of teachers fostering the 4 I's in the classroom. School staff talked about how it was “Everyone Counts Week,” which involved a series of special discussions, workshops, read-alouds, and service projects with the goal of building students’ self-esteem and empathy as a foundation for preventing bullying. Throughout the entire discussion, students and their teachers were moving throughout the building and heading outdoors to engage in learning through purposeful play.

Upon entering the first classroom, a student welcomed me in and informed me that they were in reading workshops. Groups of students were in their favorite classroom reading spots engaging in stories together. In the PreK classroom, I observed a student struggle and persevere as he tried to figure out how to make his magnetic tower taller without it collapsing. Other PreK students explored real world connections as they explored what blood is made of by playing with a mixture of red and white “blood cells.” To master their weekly vocabulary words, students in another classroom engaged in a wide variety of work: a game of Bingo with words (or “Wordo,” as the students called it), word puzzles, and a word hunt.

One student looked in his notebook for vocabulary words, seeking to complete the challenge as efficiently as possible, while another student imagined a more physical approach to the challenge as she searched around the classroom, looking up and down to find more complex words. No matter what grade level the classroom was, one thing that remained consistent throughout was the presence of movement and joy.

After we toured the classrooms, visitors and staff gathered together to discuss what we had seen and to compare it to our own school experience. Seeing students being able to move around the classroom freely was very compelling for me. I thought back to 6th grade when I was sent to the principal’s office for failure to sit in my chair the “correct” way. I remember how hard it was for me to sit facing forward, feet on the floor, while remaining fully attentive. I truly enjoyed seeing how students at the Demonstration School were invited to be comfortable in their school space and to learn the way they do best.

I also reflected on the times we had visitors when I was in school. We were told to ignore the visitors and continue on with our work as if the visitors did not exist, which was nearly impossible for an inquisitive and easily distracted student like myself. In contrast, the students at the Demonstration School were so excited to welcome us into the classroom and tell us about the books they were reading, the stories they were writing, the games that they were playing, and most importantly, the things that they were learning.

After this recent vist, I now understand, more than ever, how Inspired Teaching’s teacher training model truly is “building a better school experience for students.”

Links:

Feb 24, 2016

Euronews features Inspired Teaching in Video News

Teacher and Student Show Mutual Respect
Teacher and Student Show Mutual Respect

Inspired Teaching has been featured on Euronews' Learning World an international program dedicated to covering education innovation across the globe. Click here to view the video!

 The news program visited the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School to observe inquiry-based, student-centered instruction and to learn what’s possible when students and teachers treat one another with Mutual Respect.

One of the featured voices in the video was that of Mr. Jon Berg, a first grade teacher at the Demonstration School and a 2012 Inspired Teaching Fellow: “I felt like the Inspired Teaching School really provided me with a place where I would be able to think outside the box and teach my students in the best way that I felt they needed to be taught. When students feel that they are cared about and that they are equal and that their perspective and voice matters, it creates this security and safety that is required for students to take risks and make mistakes.”

 
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