First Graders Take on Passion Based Projects About Earth

Room 12 at Center School participated in a science-based Genius Hour and I am fortunate to have joined them.  From learning about earth as a class to choosing a question they were passionate about researching, these six and seven-year-old students became experts on their topics.

Heidi Cullen launched choice based centers this year, giving her students time to research, create, and present based on a topic of their choice.  Every few months she changes the theme and this time of year, students were focused on earth.  To find information based on their research questions, students were able to read books as well as watch videos.  Mrs. Cullen stressed a balance between the two as well as stopping and taking notes on anything that grabbed their attention.

When I joined this special class, clearly on an innovative mission, I took the questions they were researching and worked with Mrs. Cullen to create QR Codes linked to videos as well as basic search sites like Kidtopia and National Geographic for Kids.  We assigned QR codes with either a green, yellow, or red dot and taught students to think about the colors in terms of traffic lights.

Students could scan the “green light” codes knowing they would immediately be taken to a video on their topic.  When scanning “yellow light” codes, students knew they should stop and think as they had to look for a video carefully that might best meet their needs.  Students were also able to search topics through the BrainPOP Jr app, which they thoroughly enjoyed.  We decided to introduce the “red light” QR codes during their next project as students continue to learn about internet safety and digital citizenship.

In terms of creating, students painted, built structures, wrote books, drew diagrams, and developed simulations so that when presenting, the audience could be as engaged as possible; and we were.  Classmates listened intently to each presenter as they learned about volcanoes, gravity, our solar system, states of matter, Mars, astronauts, the moon, erosion, and mountains.  They were also allowed to respond with questions and comments, which was certainly an incentive to pay attention closely.

This concluding portion of the presentation also gave the students sharing their knowledge a chance to be the teachers even for their teacher, which is the ultimate student-centered scenario.  As I sat and took notes, I realized that each presentation was a learning experience for every single person in the room.

It was also incredibly clear that students learned well beyond the facts they internalized about their topics.   Students gained maturity, confidence, and dove into 21st century skills.  From figuring out their timeline to how they were going to communicate their knowledge, they did it all.  In giving her students freedom to collaborate, organize their thinking, develop a plan, put it into action, and create something awesome, Mrs. Cullen was able to guide students with their learning.  The anticipation, motivation, and diligence I witnessed every time I entered Room 12 was remarkable.  Each child knew that what they were about to contribute to their class mattered.

I can’t wait to join Room 12 on their next project mission after Winter Break!


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