Thursday, March 6, 2014

5 Cool Student #Projects Happening Right Now...Unassigned!

In the recent New York Times article, "How to Get a Job at Google", writer Thomas Friedman discussed the traits Google Senior Vice President of People Operations, "i.e. the guy in charge of hiring" pointed to as key indicators of success over traditional metrics such as G.P.A. Among them were the skills of collaboration, leadership, adaptability, and ownership. While it's true that many assignments provide students opportunities to hone these skills, there is a unique growth margin for them when students engage in authentic initiatives driven by their own passionate pursuits of knowledge. It caused me to ponder some of the incredible unassigned student initiatives we have seen bloom over the course of the year at my school when grading, due dates, and even class time are removed from the learning equation.

On that note, here are 5 cool student projects happening without grades, due dates, clubs, or even class time allotted to the endeavors...

1) Filmmaking: Our fifth grade has some aspiring filmmakers who have begun a film project with the support of teachers. The students are using their "free" time in recess and any spare moment throughout the day to write, direct, and produce the film. 

Image Credit: TheTweetBeat
2) Writing: There's a whole lot of writing and publishing going on outside school. Several of our The Tweet Beat from my friend Ryan as a great example! Another student Sam likes to publish blogs about science, like Science the Cool Way, and is working on a novel about a young girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder who faces and overcomes struggles to find friends and connect with others.
students are engaged in ongoing blogging, nonfiction, fiction writing, and fan fiction. Some of their publishing communities are robust in readership as well. Here's

3) Whiteboarding Everything: The recent installation of Idea Paint on the tables in the French room has created quite the frenzy. Our students are abuzz with ways to make all the learning surfaces areas where they can write and express their ideas. One group has taken up the task of researching and trying out different, more cost effective solutions. Their ideas have ranged from transparent, disposable sheets to whiteboard film. We're eager to see what they'll come up with!

4) Exercise-Powered MP3: One of our 7th Graders is working on designing an MP3 player powered by movement. Her goal is to enter the prototype into an upcoming medical design competition. Medicine is a passion of Sam's, and this would follow other designs she has completed in this area. Other designs include enhanced therapy suits for the treatment of children with autism.

5) Book Discussions: When we started the Summer Reading Group in Schoology, it was for the purpose of discussing the books we read throughout summer and a means to stay connected or get to know new members of our community prior to school. We were pleased to see our students continue to post about their reading adventures in this shared space. Their use of the group to share their reading experiences is an excellent example of positive, purposeful digital citizenship.

It quite remarkable to witness the learning that still takes place when the traditional school mandates are removed. It reminds us of the power of child inquisitiveness and the importance of allowing space for it within our walls, even when not always assigned to our classes.

**This post is cross-posted from our school's blog, The Mandell Prep Perspective


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