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On March 22, 2013 something amazing is going to happen: 600 elementary students are going to take over their school and their teachers aren't going to do ANYTHING about it. You read that right. That day, Innovation Day, the students at Samuel Houston Elementary are going to "drive the bus" and their teachers are just going to make sure they keep it between the lines. If you're not familiar with Innovation Day (also known as FedEx Day or Genius Day), you're missing out on one of the newer trends hitting education right now. The concept that we've killed creativity in our young students has never gotten more coverage than it's receiving today, thanks to state and national debates about standardized testing.
The basic idea is this: ask students what they WANT to learn and then........LET THEM. Provide them the means to discover all they can discover and ask them to teach us what they learn. It's a simple, yet powerful model for learning. At Samuel Houston Elementary, teachers have been prepping themselves for the upcoming Friday. We have met as grade level teams to discuss, plan, and collaborate about the logistics of our experiment. Here's what we've come up with:
Before we conferenced with teachers, we had some worries. We (the principal, director of staff development, and the campus instructional technologist..me) thought teachers would struggle with the idea of allowing their students to take the reigns for an entire day. I personally thought I would hear teachers say, "Oh I don't think little Jimmy can do that on his own" or "Well, I don't think THESE kids can do that". Happily, I can say I was way off the mark. The teachers on our campus were excited about the prospect of allowing students to design their learning for the day. They had some great ideas about what to do if a student finishes their project early in the day or if there is a "melt-down" or a need for the little ones to stay with their beloved homeroom teachers. One teacher even gave us what has turned into a campus-wide model (and the inspiration for this blog post) for nudging the students along in their planning phase. She shared with us during conference how she talked about Innovation Day with her own daughter. Questions comprised the majority of her portion of the conversation: