Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Building, tinkering, and sharing - but it's more than that

I started out thinking I'd write about Scratch - the coding program that our Computer Club is working with under the guidance of our former math and science teacher Teresa Ferrer-Mico.  Teresa is completing a PhD and one of her projects is teaching kids Scratch.  Here is a great description of what Scratch is and why it's so cool to teach it.

But as one idea leads to another I started thinking about all the ways Parker kids are learning by doing, building, tinkering, and sharing.  It happens all over the school and it is leading our students to habits of mind that are vital to their success - and intimately linked to how they are naturally motivated to learn, as we now have proof from the research of neuro-scientists.  

Kids' minds thrive on solving problems, and when presented with appropriate problems (big, complex ones) and an openness to diverse solutions using a wide variety of materials, their motivation soars and their skills in agency, grit, innovation, and collaboration develop at astonishing rates. 

Examples: LEGO Robotics in all the grades; mounting a "pattern museum" in Kindergarten; inventing a better bee hive or building a wind powered machine in 4-5; inventing ways to clean up an oil spill in 2-3; building a bridge in 6-7 STEM.

I am excited about our kids and their futures!  Here are some comments from our alumni panel on Friday - they were mainly college kids (Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Bard, College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, St. Rose...) who answered the question, "What did you learn at Parker that helped you most in high school and college?"  I swear, we didn't script this. 

  • Writing a thesis - I can write a great paper or essay
  • Not having grades made me more self-motivated than other kids
  • Small classes - I got to know my teachers so well, and in high school and college getting to know my teachers is a huge advantage
  • Working with people - I'm better at that than most of the kids I encounter
  • The advanced curriculum  - learning algebra and earth science let me move ahead in high school to accomplish my dreams quicker
  • The close community and the connection with teachers gave me confidence
  • Project-based learning - it's what the real world is all about - in my college and in my job
  • Openness to other people and other ways of thinking has helped me to explore more
  • Parker allowed me to learn about things I'm interested in and gave me the freedom to explore 

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