Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cool Stuff From Last Week - Part I

Preamble: The two girls, Norah & Pepper are in grades 3 & 1 respectively, and are both in the same "Alternative" program 1-2-3 classroom.

My kids' class has always (since Norah's been in grade 1, anyway) done a year-end project called "Class Expert". It is an independent learning project where the kids must select the subject and present it in a manner of their choosing:

PowerPoint, model, speech, book, poster, even "puppet show" is listed in the instruction sheet as an option - I'm sure just to get the parents open to the idea that anything goes. I'm sure they've never had a puppet show. Never. Myself, I was hoping someone would do an interpretive dance.

The very first year, we wrastled with this. How much do you stand above them cracking the whip? And when does it cease to become their project?

We concluded it's theirs: if they were excited about the subject; if they had tossed around some notions about how we were going to go about exploring the subject; if they were engaged and interested in discussions on it; if producing the project didn't lead to melt-down, screaming fits; and ultimately, if they learned enough in the end to stand up in front of the class and talk about it and answer questions about it. We quickly scrapped the absence of melt-downs or screaming fits as criteria for success.

Pepper this year chose the good old stand-by: volcanoes.

And she wanted to build one. So we built one.

If one were to observe, one would say I am using the term "we" rather liberally. But while I built the whole plaster-encrusted thing from the ground up, she directed the process, and ultimately painted and decorated the whole thing. More importantly, she painted the insides and understood what we had done (sectioned a mountain), why it was in layers, and what the different layers were made up of (alternating hardened lava and compressed ash). Also, that the red stuff is called "magma" until it comes out of the ground when it becomes "lava". Yeah, so there's a few things I learned too.

I made her some speaking points to organize all the things she learned, but she provided her own flavour to it of course. Here she is pointing out the very important notion that "if you touch lava, you die."

What we took from this experience, as we have the previous two years, is the opportunity to explore. Since the presentation last Tuesday, Max found some really cool volcano videos at Discovery Channel [that's not it, but the link is downstairs. I'll update it if I remember and anyone cares. And I'm sure that's Candace Bergen's voice, but I can't find a credit anywhere that I've bothered looking], and she has nagged to get to see them and talks about what processes are happening. Norah too, and Stewie, for that matter all took an interest and learned about volcanoes.
So speaking of Norah, her presentation on the Great Wall of China was on here too, but somehow I deleted the photos, so I'll have to post them under separate cover tomorrow whenever I post next. I'll also share a synopsis of her first two projects.

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  1. You are so lucky Norah and Pepper are done that "Expert" thing. Mine's not out of the woods yet. Lam was supposed to do it yesterday, but he's been too sick to even think about getting up, let alone go to school.
    He's doing "How Potatoes Become Fries" -- because he adores fries. Will probably post about it when he's done. :)

  2. Norah mentioned that Lam missed his slot. That is an *excellent* subject! Next year, he could do "where bacon comes from"! mmm... with samples. I'll go.

    Look forward to reading about it!

  3. mmm... bacon... yes, I will "strongly suggest" that topic for next year. lol

  4. We have the same concept for the boys startingin grade 3, TJ came home and I went OMGGGGGGGGGGGG it's A MOM do it for me project, but instead I handed the paper to Hubbie and they went a ebay shopping for magnets. T(he)y Wanted to make a car that would hover over water. It had to be done at school which resulted in it not being completed because TJ likes to look at what everyone else is doing and gets sucked into that. someone in texas made a lot of money in Earth Magnets!

  5. I hope my kids grow up cool like yours.

  6. AndreAnna - That's probably the nicest thing anyone could say about someone else's kids! (in MY world, anyway) Thank you!

    Your kids don't have a choice b/c they have a *real* mom (the "warts and all" kind - the best kind) - and dad too, I assume, if he can get his nose out of his iPhone ;-).

    Besides they're already showing signs of being early achievers: "this cast is pissing me off"? "World Domination Boy"? Are you kidding me? ;-)