Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Writing Wednesday: What are our Kids Learning?
In fact, one of my kids had a rather involved science project, making a model, a diagram and a written explanation. Ah ha, you're thinking, she's going to talk about high school writing projects.
Actually, I'm going to talk about making models, and how letting kids figure it out on their own helps them engage more of their creative skills as well as their oral communication skills (which will in turn help their written communication skills, but that's for another blog post.)
So the assignment was to create a model of a DNA molecule.
The students were explicitly forbidden from using a model kit, and told not to use Styrofoam balls. Extra points are being given for being creative, and thinking outside the box, although the models have to be sturdy enough to travel to and from school and be handled. They can lay flat, sit up or hang. Go.
I let my child figure it out. I asked them to go through our craft supplies to see if there was anything they could use, or to make a list for the craft store since we were going into town today. They got all excited about it yesterday afternoon when they came up with an idea, contingent upon me giving up part of an older brother's collection...
Add hot glue and we're good to go. Except when I say "We" I don't mean me. I didn't help, except to give my permission to use the PEZ dispensers. I didn't even express an opinion about the weight of the golf balls. I let it all get puzzled out naturally. I helped passively, by holding pieces while the glue dried, but I did not even touch the glue gun. Not once.
Some ask what the point of these kind of projects is. It looks like more fun than work. They should be busy learning vocabulary, practicing spelling, doing sheets of math problems, learning the order of the periodic table, learning to write cursive... and any host of other rote learning skills we learned as young teens.
But planning and problem solving are critical. Learning to think and solve complex problems on your own and in groups is ever more important in our complex world. We have computers that spell check for us, calculators that solve equations for us, and search engines to look up facts and dates. What students really need to learn is critical thinking. Open ended projects like this are invaluable to helping them push the boundaries of their creativity.
And making cool looking models is fun.
What do you think? If you were the superintendent, what would your priorities be?