This past Friday, we had the awesome opportunity to learn first hand about how kids learn best, organizing space, and types of learning technology. Working with Blaine Bryson and Sarah Hughes of Avon Schools and Karlene Hollars of Vermilion schools, we had the chance to visit their buildings, learn from them, and interact throughout the entire day.
Our day began with a trip to Avon Middle School where we met Mr. Bryson and Ms. Hughes who taught us about some different types of technology. Upon arriving, the students had a chance to explore and build machines with Lego We Do. Students were excited to build cars, a lock used in a dam, a frog, a machine to push and pull, and several other projects. I loved seeing the excitement on their faces as they built code for their projects and watched them move. One group, who built a machine to pull objects, tested different weighted loads and shared how the amount of work a machine was do changes based on the size of the load.
While some of the students were building, others were working on using Dash in order to calculate the dimensions of the room in preparation for our discussion on organizing learning spaces. Students worked together to measure the room using rulers, estimation, and paper to record their work. As Mr. Bryson, Ms. Hughes, and I watched and listened, groups problem solved ways to get Dash to go across the room and around obstacles. They test and retested their code to get Dash to go the correct distance.
As we rounded out our morning at Avon Middle School, we explored more aspects of Mr. Bryson's room. The students got the opportunity to see what else was in the room and talk about how they might organize the space in the classroom. Students offered suggestions such as:
- Rearranging tables
- Relocating iPads and other pieces of technology
- Using high cabinets for teacher stuff and low cabinets for student stuff
- Labeling cabinets with names and pictures of items
- Sorting materials by categories
Some of the things they felt were most important in designing a classroom were access for students in wheelchairs, the size of the room. the organization (of tables, supplies, furniture, computers), and that items were reachable.
After departing Avon Middle School, we headed to Vermilion Elementary School. Westlake is in the early stages of new elementary school. Vermilion Elementary School was designed by the same architects who will be constructing our new elementary school. Students had the opportunity to see the possibilities of a new learning space. At Vermilion, we had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Hollars and her second grade class. Mrs. Hollars paired up the students in our classes and her students lead us on a tour of their building. Several of my students brought their cameras in order to take pictures of things that they liked. It was awesome to hear the second graders share details about their buildings, explain what certain rooms were used for, and how their school was laid out. As we came back to the room, students got to share and ask questions of each other. Many of my students liked the extended learning areas, classroom furniture, windows, and welcoming entry way.
Our classes then worked with their buddies in order to complete two unplugged coding activities. We began with a mapping activity which asked students to code directions to their partner in order to find the smiley face. As we walked around, it was great to see students foraging friendships with their buddies and asking questions. Groups troubleshooted what went wrong when they gave the wrong directions, forgot where the smiley was, or when they didn't understand the directions. During the second activity, students worked to code directions for how to create a certain arrangement of cups. Students problem solved, tested each others directions, and figured out what to do when things went wrong. It was great to see 4th graders and 2nd graders stepping up as leaders in their groups and using their problem solving skills.
I am sorry this is such as long post, but it was hard to capture the learning, engagement, and excitement from Friday in just one post. I could not be more grateful for Mr. Bryson, Ms. Hughes, and Mrs. Hollars who planned some amazing activities and their schools which opened their doors to us. Thank you!