Together, we planned to have students compete in teams to create a document camera stand for my iPad. The makerspace would provide all of the parts and tools, and the kids would supply their ingenuity and know-how. Through a first come, first served process, three students from each advising class signed up to build a device that would allow my iPad to function as a document camera.
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During two days of Community Time last week, the teams of students planned, gathered materials, and constructed their document camera stands. Mr. Mussoline and I helped them only when they needed assistance operating a tool, otherwise we let them explore and learn on their own. It was a powerful experience, and the excitement was palpable as kids measured, sawed, and drilled. Over and over again, they tried ideas and made adjustments in order to make their visions a reality. I was astounded by the level of engagement with the project as well as the students' perseverance in making their team's product the best one. In the end, all four document camera stands made it to completion with varying degrees of success. Yet, it wasn't really about the final product, it was the process. Kids were there because they wanted to be there, not because they were forced to comply. They were encouraged to follow their instincts and use their individual strengths in order to meet the expectations of the activity. And, they were allowed to fail with the chance to recover.
I'm not sure who took away more from the experience. In those two days, I learned more about passion, choice, and coaching than I ever expected. Now, it's time to figure out how to bring those insights to my English classroom.