Friday, February 3, 2017

A Journey through Deeper Learning

Students in Mrs. Judith Hasty’s class at Carrsville Elementary School are learning about Jamestown.  They are also studying animals, as well as working on their reading and writing skills.  Sounds like a typical 4th grade classroom.  But unlike a typical classroom, the students are learning all of these things through a classroom project.  Groups of students have assumed the persona of different animals.  They have researched what the animals eat, their diet, lifespan, habitat, and defense mechanisms.  But their animals are on a journey to Jamestown.  Lizards, frogs, mice, even crickets.  Equipped with detailed knowledge of their animal, the students researched the conditions of the trip—how would they find food and shelter?, what predators would they encounter and how would they protect themselves?, how would they survive on the ship and once they arrived at Jamestown?

When I visited the classroom the students were eager to share their work on the project.  They were critically thinking through their situation and putting themselves into character of their animal.  They were taking details about the ship and Jamestown and analyzing how their animal would, or wouldn’t, survive.  The students were collaborating with each other and demonstrating meaningful communication.  They explained how they were critiquing each other's work and giving kind, specific and helpful feedback.  

Once their stories are finished, they will publish them in a book which will be sold on Amazon.  Imagine having your project seen by people all across the world!  Connecting class work to the real world makes the assignment much more meaningful—authentic-- than one only graded by the teacher and handed back.

I have a video of my visit to Mrs. Hasty’s class that I hope you will watch.  The conversations with the students are spontaneous and unrehearsed.  They are enthusiastic about their project and excited to soon be published authors as fourth graders.  Mrs. Hasty also shares her thoughts about trying something that was outside of her comfort zone and the results she has seen so far. Like a good movie, the video will make you laugh, make you think, and may even make you cry, especially the story of the crickets.  This is a great example of the impact that deeper learning has on our students, as well as the skills and knowledge they gain from authentic experiences.  I can’t wait to read their book once it’s published.