Posted on September 28, 2014
Last week I wrote about the professional learning K-12 sessions in mathematics that began two weeks ago and will continue through the year. This past Wednesday several of our preschool and elementary teachers met with the Mid-Pacific Exploratory (MPX) faculty to talk shop over lunch. MPX, a project-based learning approach offered to ninth and tenth graders, integrates science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M) through projects that have real-world applications. The educational concept underpinning MPX and the preschool/elementary -- inquiry -- is a way of thinking, viewing the world, and taking action. This apporach toward understanding the world as a universal text helps students to see the connectedness and relevance of S.T.E.A.M. concepts. Students in preschool and elementary are taught to implement units of study as investigations and inquiries. The end goal of an inquiry is purposeful -- to raise awareness, to advocate for an issue, or to take action.
Last Wednesdayʻs meeting was actually the first of several we hope to continue. So over lunch conversation, we shared inquiries planned for the year, based on our respective curricula. Right now our conversation is more exploratory, but weʻre confident the collaborations across grade levels are possible. The overarching theme for MPX is sustainability. For example, ninth graders last year learned about the science of hydroponics, harvested their crops, and learned how to cook healthy meals in an "Iron Chef" cook-off with their own produce. So we speculated -- what might happen if our fifth graders, who are learning about the physics of energy, could observe the application of the principles of physics with sophomores who are planning to build electronic bicycles?
Or how might first and second graders who are deep into their learning about the origin of the universe, formation of the earth, and petrology (study of rocks, leading into fossils) be able to partner with third and fourth graders who are on geological research trips themselves and looking at rock formations? Could the use of Lidar technology, with the help of a high school group, be able to scan rocks that the third and fourth graders are observing, which, in turn, first and second graders could examine the 3-D images more closely in the classroom?
Teachers make great collaborators, and so we can look forward to interesting projects on the horizon. This cross-grade learning -- multiage learning at its best -- also addresses the developmental aspect of learning. We are looking forward to our next lunch meeting with MPX colleagues.
Preschool parents periodically meet with the preschool faculty to learn more about the anatomy of a project. Pedagogista Leslie Gleim, Atelierista Jordan Guillory, and Head Teacher Robynne Migita shared with parents some recent classroom video documentation to explain the childrenʻs insights about memories -- where they come from and how memories are evoked. Parents also contributed to this theory-making by recalling a childhood memory and adding to a list of possible factors, which the teachers will explore with the students as classroom discussion ensues. The preschool faculty is developing the concept of seeing through the "mindʻ eye" to better understand the cognitive brilliance of young children.
If there is central theme in todayʻs blog, itʻs the idea of adults working together to investigate learning -- how it happens, how it is supported and extended, and how the children are at the center of our shared work. This is the kind of "stuff" -- collaborations, innovative thinking, understanding the larger context -- that really makes learning at Mid-Pacific exciting every day.
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey, Ed.D.