Let the kids rule the school…We just did that

Written by Shirley Rinaldi. Cross-posted from Talking the Tech Walk

This week I realized that sometimes things just seem to fall into place and are meant to happen. This was the case with a new project that we tried in middle school this week, called Imagination Day.  The first thoughts of something new began to emerge on Twitter last Wednesday, after I read a tweet and then a great blog post by Josh Stumpenhorst @stumpteacher. This post was all about the very successful Innovation Day that his school had just experienced and where students became teachers for the day.  It sounded a lot like what we believe is important at PDS and what education should be all about…passion, creativity, flexibility and student led.

Our plan was initiated after I emailed our middle school head George Swain and our head of school, Josie Holford suggesting that we do something similar in our middle school. They were both excited and enthusiastic and so we brought the idea to our middle school faculty the next day, Thursday, during our division meeting. The next D Day – Intensive Study Day, was Tuesday and our next window of opportunity. Could we plan and organize something so big in a few days? By 5pm we had great ideas and the plans were set. The next step was to introduce Imagination Day to our students. George did just that at our assembly on Friday morning.
There was a buzz going around the Chapman Room, Cafeteria and classrooms as students talked about their passions and whether they wanted to teach, attend workshops or do both. Next step was filling out a Google form to tell us what students wanted to do. We had twenty-one offers of great workshops from a number of students from grades 6th through 8th grade.

Here are the offerings…

Room Session 1 Session 2
G-26 Fashion Building Birdhouses
G-5 Successful Revolution Acting Improv.
G-15 Juggling with Devil Sticks Drawing
Media Center Frame by Frame Animation —–
Kitchen Baking Brownies Making Tacos
G-19B Candle Making Speed Writing a Short Story
G-20 Sign Language Origami
G-21 Math Magic Rise and Fall of Rome
G-22 Speaking Chinese World War II
Gym Basketball Skills —–
Outdoors Soccer Skills Baseball Skills/Running
Lower School —– Teaching in Lower School

Meetings were set up so that the “teachers” knew the length of the workshops and what they should plan for. They then filled out planning sheets. Lastly, the sign up Google form went out to the rest of the middle school on Monday morning.  Everyone was happy with their choices and we were all set to go.

Tuesday arrived, and we, the faculty, were a little nervous. Had we pulled this off successfully or would it be a disaster? We divided up so we could oversee three different workshops in case there were any problems. There were NONE. We loaded up on cameras and Flip cams and off we went into the classrooms. Boy were we surprised! Every kid was engaged, focused and having a great time and learning so much. Student teachers were amazing and had planned absolutely fantastic lessons.
Here is the first video of our great day…
At the end of the day, we created another Google form so that everyone could reflect on all aspects of the day. Everyone in middle school (teachers and students) wanted to do it again and soon.

Here are some quotes from some of our students…

“I’ve never left school so tired.”

“I learned that teaching is fun and that I like Tacos.”

“I was surprised at how well the class went.”

“I learned that teaching is really hard.”

“Learn from other people.”

“I think this could be done any place, any time.”

“It’s a great learning experience. Not only are we learning from other kids but we are learning about other kids.”

“I learned how to make candles and that lime is supposed to go on Tacos.”

“School should not only be about academics. I say let the students have fun and learn something new.”

Funnily enough, this article from The New York Times turned up about the same time as we were planning our Imagination Day. Let Kids Rule the School. So let’s pass the word and involve more schools in this kind of day.

What more is there to say? Empowered students become creative, passionate learners. There is no doubt in my mind.


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