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Making Makes a Difference

Posted by on in Project-Based Learning
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It is amazing what happens when kids start using their creativity and making something related to their learning. I had a bit of an epiphany today as I was responding to some questions a former student was asking as part of her Intro to Education class that requires 15 hours of teacher observation. The questions were basic questions, but they were triggering reflection while I was standing in my classroom watching my kids work.

Just so happened this reflective moment was happening during "that" class ... you know the class that just seems to be a bit more "active" than the other classes and maybe struggle a little bit more ... don't judge ... we have all had "that" class. Strange thing though; today, "That", class was not behaving like "that" class. Most of them were working ... like on task ... and seemingly enjoying what they were doing. What was different about today? They were working on their STEAM unit projects.

Over the years I have seen many examples where the kids who would be classified by testing data as "low" create some of the most phenomenal projects. This is one of the advantages of implementing Project Based Learning (PBL) as it gives the students an opportunity to express their newly acquired knowledge in a different, more creative fashion. This project is related to the novel Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (@ScottWesterfeld) and the kids had to create something in a Steampunk fashion that was inspired by the novel and somehow improves society or makes life easier for the individual.

The making process gives them an opportunity to do the learning. Many of the students were drawn to wanting to make hats as that was an example I used to illustrate how simple making steampunk products could be, but many were missing the primary objective of how their creation could improve their life or society as a whole. We used a clip from Meet the Robinsons where it shows the hat doing work for humans as well as some images of Inspector Gadget with his hat full of surprises and all of a sudden the lights went on all over the classroom and the kids went back to work.

A class that normally struggles to remain quiet and focused for longer than a few minutes were working independently on their projects. Kids were using the sewing machine, hot glue guns, painting, but more importantly they were designing. That design process happens regardless of academic level. Each kids has ideas rolling around their head. They just need the opportunity to put them into practice. Below are some images of the kids working.

Demetrius is constructing a model time portal in the shape of an octagon. Interesting fact, he has not yet officially learned about the angles of an octagon until now. That and he got to use a power tool when none of the other students did. 
Here some of my students are removing the legs from and old broken table so we can recycle them. They have been placed on the new table that we are building. These girls were so excited about working with their hands and knowing their work was going to make a difference.

You never know what will happen when you let the kids create ... PBL gets all the kids thinking, learning and doing. PBL is one of those activities that really does not care what the testing data says about the kid. Given the right support and opportunity all the kids will engage and soar!

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Dennis Dill is a Social Studies and Instructional Television teacher at Jewett School of the Arts, a STEAM PreK - 8th grade school, in Winter Haven, Florida. Dennis earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences from the University of South Florida and an MS in Education Media Design and Technology from FullSail University. Dennis has been teaching for 14 years.

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Guest Friday, 09 December 2016