Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Hampshire State House Visit

Last week the the fourth grade classes at Mount Pleasant School took a field trip to the New Hampshire Historical Museum and the New Hampshire State House in Concord. It was an enjoyable trip filled with learning. We even got to meet Governor John Lynch, who came out of a meeting just to meet the students and talk with them a bit! This is an Animoto video of our visit to the State House.

Here is an Animoto video of our visit to the New Hampshire State Historical Society. We were investigating everyday things that people used in the past.

Our Benjamin Franklin Museum

Here is an Animoto video of some of the Benjamin Franklin projects my class made for a Benjamin Franklin Museum. We read about Benjamin Franklin in the Scott Foresman story "Out of the Blue" based on the Jean Fritz book, "What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?" Earlier in the year I had bought a copy of the book, "Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions" by Carmella Van Vleet and decided to use many of the creative ideas in it with my class. Every student chose a project that was in some way related to Benjamin Franklin. The projects were not difficult and they were fun for the students to make. We displayed our projects and posters as well as presented our projects to the other fourth grade classes. This is the book that is full of ideas, clever projects, and interesting activities. I would like to do this activity again with another class. We were able to learn about all the different activities, ideas, and inventions that Benjamin Franklin was involved with.

I found this book on Amazon and have ordered it. It looks like a perfect companion book for the projects.

One note about this Animoto video. I found a button to slow down the pictures as I did not have that many. It now spends more time on the picture. I like how every Animoto has different transitions and how they always seem so perfect for the pictures.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are We Human...or Are We Dancers?

"Are we human...or our we dancer?" That is a line from "The Killers" song "Human". I understand that the song was a reaction to a remark once made by the late Hunter S. Thompson, an acerbic journalist famed for “telling it like it is”, often in offensive terms. He had commented that America is nowadays raising a “generation of dancers”. I don't think he meant that in a positive light!Thompson committed suicide in 2005. This song seems to be about people losing their humanity and all being trained to be the same. When it comes to being different or pursuing an "open door" the lyrics go:

I did my best to notice
when the call came down the line
up to the platform of surrender
I was brought but I was kind
and sometimes I get nervous
when I see an open door

close your eyes, clear your heart

cut the cord
are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I'm on my knees looking for the answer
are we human or are we dancer

After listening to this speech, I think of "Are we dancers" in a different light. Are we allowing our children to dance to the beat of their own creativity? Our we allowing that particular door to be opened? Or our we and our educational system closing that door to our children in the pursuit of other lofty goals? You will get it when you hear the story about the dancer at the end.

Sir Ken Robinson gave this speech in June 2006 for the TED conference. Here is the introduction from the TED blog.

"Why you should listen to him: Why don't we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says. It's a message with deep resonance. Robinson's TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? "Everyone should watch this." "

This is an entertaining speech that will make you think. Here are some "killer" lines from the speech. There are more, give it a listen.

"And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.

So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status"

I want to hang that one on my classroom wall, or at least write it out and leave it on my teacher's desk to remind me not to "lose" the teaching of creativity.

"I heard a great story recently, I love telling it, of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was 6 and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, "What are you drawing?" and the girl said, "I'm drawing a picture of God." And the teacher said, "But nobody knows what God looks like." And the girl said, "They will in a minute."

I wonder how many kids like this, we miss in our classes as we don't allow them to pursue something passionately.

"You'll never come up with anything original, if you're not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.

And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.

And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities."

I actually have had a quote similar to this on a poster I created, up on my classroom wall. "You can't make anything, if you are afraid to make mistakes."

"Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it. So why is this?"

I always tell my class, something similar about science. They were all great scientists once before they got to school. They threw their food off the high chair while they ate, to see how gravity worked. It kept working until someone gave them a helium filled balloon! And the questions that little kids ask, "Why? How come? and so forth. Where did they go? Recall how easily a 3-year old studies ants on the ground. I asked my class a week ago, when was the last time they observed ants. It had been a few years! Where did their enthusiasm for science go?

"But something strikes you when you move to America and when you travel around the world: every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one, doesn't matter where you go, you'd think it would be otherwise but it isn't. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on earth.

And in pretty much every system too, there's a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think maths is very important but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they're allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don't we? Did I miss a meeting?

Truthfully what happens is, as children grow up we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side."

There are plenty of other great quotes in this video. Wait until you hear about the "dancing" girl. Everyone should watch this.

By the way, I can't dance. Not one step! I have to be the world's worst dancer!

Here is a more recent post by Sir Ken Robinson about not just reforming education, but transforming it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trip to The Little Red Schoolhouse

Our class had a fantastic trip to The Little Red Schoolhouse. Our time was shorter than normal due to bus difficulties, but we still had a wonderful time learning what school was like in 1842. Here is a Voice Thread of our trip.

Here is an Animoto video of our field trip.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Simple Fun at Brain Bashers

BrainBashers: Puzzles, Games, Brain Teasers and Optical Illusions

Brain Bashers is a collection of brain teasers, puzzles, riddles, games and optical illusions. With thousands of brain teasers and puzzles, over one hundred awards, BrainBashers is updated with optical illusions and games regularly and has 5 new puzzles added every other week. It looks like a fun site to go to when you have a few minutes and want something fun or challenging for your class (or a students to do).