September 1, 2016 — I just listened to the podcast, “Designing Beautiful Places for Learning,” and wanted to make you aware of an amazing movement in Michigan that is changing and transforming education like nothing I have ever witnessed and aligns with many of the ideas presented in the podcast. Throughout our state, many districts have started Homeschool Partnerships. For the most part, Partnerships are managed by Homeschool parents who are hired by the districts.
These Partnerships have become incubators for new ideas and models for learning that are impacting the more conventional, brick and mortar schools and all reside under an existing public school district. Some aspects of the Partnerships that are influencing change are:
I have watched these Partnerships evolve and grow over the last 5 to 6 years. As I work with districts on realizing their goals of personalization, virtual learning, blended learning, etc., I have come to realize and appreciate that the Homeschool Partnerships are having a tremendous impact and influence in our state by creating passionate learners! Many of the Homeschool Partnerships now have 600 to 700 students enrolled! Truly incredible.
In some districts, the Partnerships are becoming microschools that engage the Homeschool students, the brick and mortar students, and the community at large. The learning can take place at the building they are housed in, virtually, or in local venues where certified teachers and community members team up for teaching and learning options for the students.
I asked one of the Homeschool Partnership parents to share an experience that I could share in this Blog. What follows is the story that I received…
Betsy Springer, Consultant, EdTech Specialists
My most memorable experience with project based learning wasn’t in my own classroom. In fact, it wasn’t in a classroom at all. It happened in a completely organic fashion, with my own children and their friends.
Apparently my 7 year old son and his friends overheard a planning meeting for our church’s annual Vacation Bible School carnival. Not satisfied with simply attending and playing carnival games for prizes, the tiny band of children set out to run a game of their own.
They were made aware of the responsibilities of a game host:
Not only did they agree to this, enthusiastically, they set out to invent the game from scratch.
For weeks, they would be working in empty classrooms around the building, after services, and on Saturdays. Throughout the week, they collected cardboard, nerf toys and scrap wood to build their booth, backdrop, props and tools. While the other mom and I discussed the project in private, we left them alone in the design, creation and implementation of it.
It was clear their driving question was, “How can we make a carnival game that our peers will love?” They started with their own hobbies, namely nerf guns and princesses, and brainstormed how this may be received by others. The game began to take shape as a sort of shooting gallery, complete with 3 foot cardboard humans, decorated with clothes and magic marker faces.
The children seemed to do well with improvisation and problem solving. They used their littlest brother as a human pattern, tracing his small frame on flattened refrigerator boxes. They found the cardboard too flimsy to stand on its own, so they fashioned braces from yard sticks and packing tape. For weeks, they worked feverishly; no household item was safe!
They also worked cooperatively. They inventoried each other’s strengths, giving the cutting of cardboard to the physically strongest and the drawing of faces to the most artistic. In the end, they even drafted a rotation, so they could each have a little time at the carnival, while taking turns manning their own booth.
So chaotic was the carnival, that I missed out on seeing much of the final product. And yet, I saw much more. I saw the abilities of young children, ages 4-10, to take a complex project and capably break it down into its smaller parts. They delegated, collaborated, and collected without any adult guidance. I never once reminded my son to bring his found cardboard along on a trip to church. Yet, he did it (this from the kid that sometimes gets to school and has forgotten his shoes).
I saw the value of passion. The passion of the kids to make this thing superseded even their own selfishness (admittedly, we all have this part of ourselves). They gave up the chance to win prizes, goldfish, candy, to instead offer a service to their peers, but only because they were allowed to create this without any censorship from adults.
They demonstrated a lot of academics. Math, in measuring, counting, deciding how prizes would be earned. Art, obviously. Language in making signage and advertisements. They experimented with finding which nerf weapon was powerful enough to knock over the target, from how far, and how often.
Witnessing this experience in my children has inspired me to incorporate this type of project in my classrooms.
Future Blogs, that will cover innovative education topics such as project based learning, online learning, customized learning and tech tools in education, will be posted at: EdTechSpecialists.com.