“The world is filled with closet constructionists.”-Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager in Invent to Learn
We touched briefly on this week’s readings in class last night, but I saved my thoughts for a blog post as they’re rather lengthy. I’ve enjoyed the other books we’re reading, but Invent to Learn (ITL) has given me the most food for thought. As I mentioned in my first post, I run the library for two St. Paul schools. In talking about making, ITL used two words/phrases that sum up the curriculum of both schools; inquiry and project-based learning. Inquiry and project-based learning are HUGE at my schools. For example, every 6th-8th grader participates in History Day, where they research (deeply research– the most dedicated ones interviews eyewitnesses, call experts, and dig through old archive materials) any event in history and create a project that shows what they’ve discovered. They make beautiful websites, put on reenactments, make documentaries, and build exhibits. On the other end of the spectrum, the 2nd graders of both schools put on plays with home-made costumes of common folk tales for their parents and the younger students. These are just two examples. The IB curriculum that Benjamin E. Mays uses holds up inquiry as a primary tool of learning, and Capitol Hill uses inquiry and project-based learning as a way to individualize their curriculum to the strengths of each of their G&T students. Based on this, I think my schools might truly be full of ‘closet constructionists.’
I don’t see quite the level of inquiry that ITL describes, however. Most of the time, the research and making is driven by the curriculum, not student interest. In addition, I largely see the inquiry and project-based learning happening in social studies and science and somewhat in English Language Arts. I think there’s great potential for student-driven inquiry in math,
All of this leaves me with three questions:
1. What role does the library and I play in their making? How can we get more involved and better serve the students and teachers on their projects? Especially given our limitations: the library serves two distinct schools and has very limited space, and I have very limited time to spare for this endeavor.
2. How can the library and I encourage making in new areas such as math and in using new materials and technology? This question is especially relevant in the technology area as my district rolls out their new 1:1 iPad program over the next two years. Both the teachers and the students will need a lot of help figuring out how to best use this explosion of tech to enhance learning.
2. How can I encourage kids in their making outside of school? I have a website set up with great suggestions for reading online and offline to which I could definitely add a making page, but I haven’t had much success getting students on the site yet. How else can I bring kids into the maker movement and help them discover and build their passions?
I think these three questions are a great focus point for my inquiry into making in an educational setting this semester and beyond. I’ll definitely be circling back to these thoughts in the future posts.