Friday, May 2, 2014

Project Reaching Forward

This is an outline I developed for my Principal. I have received approval for it with a caveat: it will be with my regular Grade 5 class rather than a multi-age class. If all goes well we could be looking at that for next year.

Overview

This project will be a yearlong project that will cover the curriculum as well as helping students to develop an understanding of their world around them. It will engage them and take their learning to a higher level. It will be fusion of research and practical skills. It is aimed at having 24, Grade 5 – 8 students in one classroom.
The project will be split up into three segments: Art and Design, Drama and Dance and Social Justice. The overall theme covered from beginning to end will be a focus on developing an understanding of social justice, creating information pieces to highlight their knowledge and use the other pieces to express their message. All subjects will be covered through the three areas mentioned.
The final outcome of their work will be a celebration of their knowledge with all facets being presented. All partners will be invited to attend this celebration of their work. The location and date are yet to be determined.
We will incorporate a full program with the help of partnerships to be developed with the City of Oshawa, Region of Durham, the universities and community college within Durham Region, the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery, businesses and individuals from within the community. Having experts in the field come to the classroom to discuss experiences and techniques, helps the students to understand the connections that can be made. This in class experience and field trips allow the students to explore and connect with others who share similar interests and  provide opportunities for discussion. It allows them to explore concepts and to develop and apply skills. Community Partnerships are a must for children to achieve a level of success beyond what we have experienced in education up to this point.
In education, our goal is to provide high quality learning for all students. The need for this high quality learning can only be met by providing each student with the opportunity to learn by meeting his or her individual needs. Through this process we will help each student reach their potential by allowing them to synthesize information, make informed decisions and communicate effectively. This program sets about to meet those needs while providing the basis for lifelong learning.
Education has become more than the pencil paper books activities of old. Today we need to engage the students in larger scale projects that will use all their knowledge gained so far and incorporate it into a framework that is meaningful and profound. Students will challenge themselves to be strong thinkers, better analysts, and more productive with their belief in what they are doing.
Experiential learning has deeper meaning when paired with real life situations. While I propose to begin by using arts as a base for learning, the reality is that many different areas of interest could be used as the beginning point to reach students who have difficulty learning or are consciously removing themselves from the learning process. Giving students meaningful topics to develop their understanding demands a deeper involvement in the topic by the student. Further research and following their questions and insights increases their ability to develop a more meaningful relationship and a clearer understanding of the topic. For the child to achieve greater success it is important that the instruction of the skills necessary be provided on an as needed basis. The students will be taught the curriculum but it may not be in the manner we now teach it. Teaching through arts activities helps support the various learning styles, interests, and strengths of individual students. With cross curricular learning, research and hands on experience children can be encouraged to generate new connections and to expand their existing understanding. It is important for students to see how the knowledge and skills developed in one area can be relevant to other areas.
SOLE, Self-Organized Learning Environments, is the basis for teaching the students. In a SOLE, students develop the question, form groups of 4 to research the question using a laptop, make point form notes, rewrite their notes into interesting sentences and paragraphs and present it to the class. I have used SOLE for 16 months. In my experiences the students are more focused, there are fewer behaviour issues, their reading scores all improved by at least 2 reading levels with everyone approaching or well above grade level. The students take a greater pride in their work. By allowing the students to become personally involved in their education they gain confidence in themselves.   
Art and Design
1.         Drawing and Sketching
2.         Acrylic and watercolour painting
3.         Design
4.         Sculpturing
Final Outcome: 5 pieces of art. Once from each area that reflect strong artistic and design qualities.
A redesigned Rube Goldberg presentation
Social Conscience
  1. Homelessness 
  2. Soup Kitchens
  3. Food banks

Final Outcome
Develop and film a documentary about each of the 3 areas by groups of students.
Drama
1.         Theatre Skills
2.         Improvisation
3.         Drama skills
Final Outcomes
1.         Improv night
2.         A self-written, directed and acted play with music.