The "cemetery method" is a reference to the practice of arranging classrooms that is similar to cemeteries in that the students are in rows, very still and very quiet.
That may have been acceptable decades ago when schools were designed on the factory model. During the Industrial Age factories needed workers who were on time, obedient and able to perform standardized tasks. They did not want workers who were creative thinkers.
This TED Talk by Shawn Achor and his book, The Happiness Advantage, has excellent tips for how be happier, which is turn increases productivity, energy, creativity, innovation and learning. The book is packed with research-based data. I recommend this video for students, educators, parents, and business and community leaders!
An excerpt from this TED Talk, including some specific actions I would incorporate into my class. You don't NOT have the time!
If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we've found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% m ore productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You're 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed. . . . . .
* Write down three new things that they're grateful for for 21 days in a row, three new things each day. And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first.
* Journaling about one positive experience you've had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters.
* We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we've been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand.
* And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness. We get people, when they open up their inbox, to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their support network.
And by doing these activities and by training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we've found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.
Please see a related post in this blog on Meditation in School - completely amazing!
This past summer I shared some ideas for various STEM/STEAM projects which were inspired by a road trip from central Texas to northern Arizona. Part of that drive involved an unexpected, and totally amazing, experience - driving - for miles - through the middle of one of the largest wind farms in the world!
Today I'd like to share with you another excellent source of not only inspiration, but information, to help you design and actualize your own STEM/STEAM school.
Dr. Aaron Smith is the Director of the very exciting Aviation Academy, a STEM school in Newport News, Virginia. This school represents the epitome of a 21st century school, whose designs are aligned to our 3 compasses to 21st century education which are then immersed within a 21st century learning environment - beginning with intentional design of the Physical Environment,then the Social/Emotional Environment, and finally, the Academic Environment.
As you will see from this excerpt from the introduction in his book, Awakening Your STEM School, this school definitely meets the criteria for the perfect Physical Environment. They "get it" smack on!
From Awakening Your STEM School, by Dr. Aaron Smith . . .
SO MY CAREER has led me here. I unpack the boxes from my previous school leadership position to take over as Program Director of the Aviation Academy, a magnet program in the Newport News, Virginia Public Schools. I look out the large picture window at the tarmac of the airport. Housed in the old terminal building at this beautiful airport, the enlightened leadership of the Newport News/ Williamsburg International Airport — a perfect location to bring young people interested in aviation as a career. . . .
This book is a "must have" for every educator, school board member, parent, community and business leader who wants to create a truly 21st century STEM school. From powerful inspiration and an introduction to the paradigm shift required in thinking about "what school is and should be", this book also provides the practical knowledge you will need, in a complete outline and guide to all the nuts and bolts of making your vision a reality.
The school Dr. Smith describes is a prime example of the manifestation of the new education paradigm we've been hearing about from visionaries such as Sir Ken Robinson, Tony Wagner, Sugata Mitra and Prakash Nair, repeatedly calling for - not reform, but the re-imagining and re-invention, of schools.
The Aviation Academy provides students with experiences that are rigorous, relevant and real world. Here you will find innovation; creativity; curiosity and imagination; critical thinking and problem solving; entrepreneurship; collaboration across networks and leading by influence; and effective oral and written communication. Here students develop 21st century skills [iii] and multiple literacies [iv] required for successful living in this new millennium.
This school has escaped the obsolete "cells and bells" model, a relic of a bygone era, the factory model of 19th century education.[v] And, while it is physically located at an amazing and perfect location, this school extends beyond the walls of the terminal to the community - from local to global.
Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith discuss [vi] the enormous need to prepare students, not only for the sake of the individual student in life, but for the sake of the economy and our nation. Aaron Smith's book, Awakening the STEM School, addresses that need head on, with powerful and poignant examples of why we must change now.
This book is a clarion call to stop the damage being inflicted upon individual students, educators and parents as a result of (what I call) standardized testing mania. The messages in this book cannot help but break your heart, wake you up and then inspire you to take action - for the sake of our children and our nation. More than data, we are looking at real people, real humans, and a nation with an immediate and urgent need. As Dr. Smith so eloquently and vividly explains, we are on the verge of a "perfect storm" in education, an extremely dangerous situation.
At the Aviation Academy the focus is on STEM careers via aviation; this experience certainly will prepare students for success in many ways, not only careers in aviation. And it serves as an excellent model for all communities who wish to ensure success for their children, their communities and the nation.
Be sure to order this book and have some serious discussions - and then take action - as a result.
Finally, Dr. Smith has organized an impressive array of additional resources on his web site, STEM School DR. [vii] Here you will find STEM web sites for teachers, information on STEM grants and a section for In the News.
I hope that you, too, will find these resources valuable and that you will share them with all your connections and colleagues as well as your community!
i. Smith, Aaron (2015-06-01). Awakening Your STEM School. Koehler Books.
ii. Critical Attributes of 21st Century Education
iii. 7 Survival Skills for the 21st Century, as outlined by Tony Wagner, Harvard University
iv. Multiple Literacies for the 21st Century
v. Facilities for 21st century schools. Also see my blog post, "Lose the Cells and Bells".
vi. Wagner, Tony and Ted Dintersmith (2015), Most Likely to Succeed - Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era.
vii. STEM School DR
In March of this year I posted a TED Talk by Peter Gray entitled The Decline of Play. Then in July I posted this story about a school in Australia that "ditches the rules" for the playground and how it reduced bullying.
Today I saw an article in the Atlantic entitled The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland- Forget the Common Core, Finland's youngsters are in charge of determining what happens in the classroom, which I greatly enjoyed. This is a lesson Americans certainly should take to heart.
The article on kindergarten in Finland contained links to some excellent articles and research reports which I would like to share with you.
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? - a working paper by EdPolicy Works at the University of Virginia
The Power of Play - a Research Summary on Play and Learning_ by Dr. Rachel E. White for the Minnesto Children's Museum
The Importance of Play, by Bruno Bettelheim
Also, please see this excellent video about the damage the CCSS are causing in early childhood and early elementary education.
One of the results of my summer 3R's (relax, refresh, renew) STEAM trip earlier this month was to once again engage with Science Fiction as a powerful curricular theme. Both the visit to the UFO Research Center and Museum in Roswell, New Mexico and the visit to Meteor Crater were excellent inspirations as well as a treasure trove of resources for the creative teacher.
One of my mottos is: Learning is serious, but that doesn't mean it has to be grim!
WHAT IS SCIENCE FICTION?
Science fiction predicts change, explores consequences, and studies potential futures. It teaches adaptability and open mindedness in the face of change. It performs "imaginary experiments" to see how people react to change before the change actually happens, and provides a different perspective on our world. Science fiction writers see the future as a consequence of our present day. In this light, it is also a vehicle for social analysis and an opportunity to experiment with new concepts and their effects on humanity and the world. Science fiction presents many issues from many different points of view for us to examine.
Click the "Read More" link below to discover an amazing array of resources and idea sparkers for a Sci-FI PBL!
STEAM - Science - Technology - Engineering - Art - Math - -
Insights from our summertime 3 R's
In our last newsletter, School's Out for Summer, we introduced our new 3 R's for Summer - Relax, Refresh and Renew! We even took our own advice on that when we conducted a professional development event, PBL21 - Designing the 21st Century Classroom, at a wonderful middle school in Arizona!
We decided to relax, refresh and renew by enjoying the spectacular scenery on a road trip from central Texas to northern Arizona. The weather was perfect, and the changing landscapes were breathtaking. First the beauty of sprawling cattle ranches, then miles of lush fields of wheat and corn, through the rose-colored desert, past spectacular mesas, then suddenly entering dense pine forests as we climbed the snow-capped mountains, it was spectacular. It brought to mind the song, America, the Beautiful!
(Which reminds me to remind you - Constitution Day in the United States is September 17. Here are some excellent resources for you and your students!)
Click "Read More" to read about all the amazing sights we saw and the curriculum connections we made, especially to STEAM! And please add in the Comments some sights you've seen that could be the spark for a great PBL21 unit!
Recently I began inviting everyone I connected with on LinkedIn to share with me, so that I could share with others, exciting news about their 21st century schools! Sandra Trach, the Principal at Joseph Estabrook Elementary School responded. Our email conversation is presented below as an interview, but first some background information on the school and their community, Lexington, Massachusetts:
Joseph Estabrook Elementary School was ranked #1 Best Public Elementary School in Massachusetts, out of 855 public schools according to Niche.com (2015). Beyond this, what impressed me the most was their approach to 21st century education, including a substantial focus on ecoliteracy, a Silver LEED building, their commitment to social/emotional learning, and their implementation of amazing project-based learning (PBL)!
Interview with a 21st century principal - Sandra Trach
Click "Read More" for the interview and some tips for taking your school into the 21st century!
Dr. Peter Gray is the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life
Dr. Gray brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual, but overall dramatic, decline in children's freedom to play with other children, without adult direction. Over the same period, there has also been a dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, suicide, and narcissism in children and adolescents. Based on his own and others' research, Dr. Gray documents why free play is essential for children's healthy social and emotional development and outlines steps through which we can bring free play back to children's lives.
From the AERO web site, the Alternative Education Resources Organization, founded and directed by Jerry Mintz.
Bullying goes down, focus in class goes up. The article is online at http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/9650581/School-ditches-rules-and-loses-bullies
The video is on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRmc2Mbsqdo
“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues…Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
--Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Ecological literacy (also referred to as ecoliteracy) is the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible. To be ecoliterate means understanding the principles of organization of ecological communities (i.e. ecosystems) and using those principles for creating sustainable human communities.
Two must reads for children – of all ages- are The Lorax by Dr. Seuss and Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor - this is an excellent introduction to environmental studies and connecting kids to nature. While it is recommended for younger children, I read it to my 4th graders, then we went on a walk and everyone followed the steps in the book for selecting their perfect rock. They kept them on their desks for the rest of the school year and took them home on the last day of school. An EXCELLENT activity!
Click here to find more recommendations for children's literature to develop ecoliteracy.