Enriching our students’ learning

What better way to enrich our students’ learning experience and help them to develop resilience, independent thinking and self-motivation than to offer them a course that allows them the time to pursue an area of personal interest, without the pressure of prescribed assessment. That is why I am so excited to be part of Waicol’s junior enrichment programme.

The Year 10 ‘Drive’ course gives students nine to ten weeks to work on something of their choice. So far, this has ranged from learning how to juggle, to designing a boat using a CAD program. It’s fair to say that it isn’t all plain sailing (couldn’t resist the pun). By the time students arrive at B3’s door, many of them have forgotten which course it is they’ve signed up for. Not all come with a project in mind and some projects are less appropriate than others. I’ll never forget the student who lugged in a huge sheet of metal so that he could design and produce a knife. There are limits. On the other hand, neither will I forget the girls who collected shells from their local beach and transformed them into beautiful ornaments; the sale of which raised over $50 for cancer research.

Transitioning from a classroom situation where the lesson content is prescribed and structured is not easy for a lot of students. How do we teach independent thinking and self-organisation to students who have long developed a dependence on others to do their thinking and organising for them?  Firstly, I have had to overcome my own sense of frustration when students just ‘can’t’ come up with a project of their own and then they reject whatever it is you suggest. The second frustration is around those students who spend a lot of time doing very little. All negative? Not in the least. What I have realised – and what this course allows – is that students need time to think; to mull things over; take in what is happening around them and be inspired by their more motivated peers. When you are not shackled by looming assessments, you can afford to give students that time. Students also need structure – everyone does. The research, ideating, prototyping and testing stages of Design Thinking offer most projects structure. More importantly, it reinforces the need to practise, practise, practise, which is where the resilience comes in. Nicole Delaney’s video demonstrates this.

Not only did Nicole improve her volleyball she also learned how to put together a video charting her progress.

We learn from our mistakes, which is why we also need to demonstrate how to offer constructive criticism, accept criticism and reflect on how to use it to our advantage. Using a tool like Flipgrid allows students to share their reflections. In the following video, Chloe’s mum is using the prompts supplied by me through the site to offer Chloe constructive advice on how she can improve a particular aspect of her ambitious project – to make a set of realistic wings.

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Moving beyond the school to involve whanau and the wider community is also an important part in encouraging student motivation and participation.

As my second group begin to get their end of unit presentations ready, I am already reflecting on what I need to improve upon in readiness for the third group. Luckily, there are three of us facilitating the same course, so we can share our reflections and ideas. This is our project. We are also being enriched by the experience.

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