This past week as we prepared for spring break, Design students were extra busy with finalizing many of their challenges. In our last challenge "Tikkon Olam," where students identified a need for an individual or group, they were tasked with designing a solution based on that identified need. We had four groups who went to our local middle school and worked with students in our CCAC course. Our design students took the time to interview each student to find out what they liked. They also interviewed the teacher who requested that our students create sensory board to help her students practice and master certain skills. Before this, I had never heard of a sensory board. Another indication of how much I learn as a teacher in our Design course. The students worked with drawing up prototypes of the sensory boards. They also had to do research to find tutorials on several of the identified skills. We also had to reach out to our construction teacher who was amazing with obtaining the boards needed. We also had to employ the construction skills of our co-teacher, Coach Causby to help with drilling various holes and other parts of the board. The students worked very hard to create board that would meet the needs of their students. They received feedback from both their student and the classroom teacher and made final design changes. Earlier this week, our students traveled to the middle school to present their boards. In the tweet below, my extraordinary colleagues captured the excitement and joy of the students at receiving their customized sensory board. The beauty of this experience is that our Design students applied empathy to understand the experiences and challenges of others. Many of the students asked me about how to teach someone how to open a lock, braid hair, or tie their shoes. Instead of answering them, I had them do research and find their answers. We checked in with them to make sure that were heading in the correct direction though. In this season of both Easter and Passover, it is important to note the love that our students showed for others in designing and creating a product that will serve the CCAC students well in years to come. Outstanding job Cavaliers!
Today was an extraordinary day at North Rowan High School. What appeared to be the last Monday before a well deserved spring break turned out to be one of North Rowan's proudest moments. Unbeknownst to many, a couple of Design Challenge students had been worked tediously behind the scenes to create a pep rally / basketball game for our athletes who would be competing in Special Olympics later this week. Students were charged with designing their own challenge while ensuring that they met the competencies set forth in the areas of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and agency. We challenged our students to create a challenge that really mattered. As this was our final challenge, we wanted to see what students had learned and could do.
One group, compromised of mainly athletes, realized that too often many groups in our school are "underlooked." One such group is our students who compete in Special Olympics. From earlier challenges, students had realized that these students often feel disconnected from various parts of school. As a result, this group decided that the school needed to do something to recognize and celebrate our Special Olympics athletes. And as such, they came through in True North fashion that only a Cavalier could pull off. This group coordinated the band and cheerleaders even though both groups have finished for the year. Additionally, they recruited buddies for each athlete to help and provide encouragement during the game. The group designed a poster for each student that included their likes. The group also coordinated with our principal and athletic director to secure the time, place, and equipment necessary for the event. Additionally, they worked closely with the teacher and instructional assistants to ensure that this event was a quality production.
While there were a few glitches and a learning curve, I was pleased to see the students used their strengths and talents to create a truly innovative experience that elicited many positive and encouraging responses throughout social media. Several parents shared the following:
One commenter even included that she wished her nearby high school would do the same for their students.
In working with our Design students on this events, I heard them comment numerous times how much more work this was than they imagined. They never realized how hard it is to keep everything running smoothly. The Design students learned a lot about event coordination that we could never have taught them in the academic classroom. Further, they showed the importance of empathy by taking this opportunity to recognize their fellow students in a positive way. In the end, this group definitely saw, along with the entire school, that their work mattered and it made a difference for students. It is my hope that others were connecting to this important lesson that our students were teaching each of us. I also hope that our example will inspire other schools to create a comparable event not just for Special Olympic athletes but for other groups who may have been underlooked as well. May this example inspire each of us to think of the greater good and remind us of what our students are truly capable of doing when given the opportunity and support needed.
The ability for students to choose their challenge to be a formidable challenge for many students. It definitely pushed my colleagues and myself to our limits. Part of the difficulty involved trying to coordinate over 15 different challenges and checking in the progress of students over time. Most students did a great job keeping us updated. We had a few that tried to dodge our "check ins" and it hurt them in the end. For those students who regularly communicated with us about their progress, their challenges exceeded expectations. Students were evaluated based on five competencies: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and agency. Agency proved to be the most challenging for students. Students were tasked with providing evidence to show that they exceeded the standards for each of these category. We provided working definitions that were written in student friendly form. We also did not provide a specific format or challenge book for students to complete as we have in the past. Instead, we infused a connection to the real world where students will have to show how they meet various competencies in their job into this challenge. For students who complied their evidences early, they had the opportunity to have their work reviewed and feedback provided. These students then went on to revise and resubmit for higher grades.
I mentioned earlier that agency was the most challenging for our students to provide evidence. We defined agency in two ways: 1) how you managed your learning and 2) why your work matters. I feel particularly strong about students being able to explain why their works matters. For our final challenge, it was important that our students could explain why their work matters. Upon some conversations and ideation, many students were able to succinctly explain why their work matters. One of our groups was particularly fascinating in responding to this. This group was made up of two students whose families come from Mexico. This group wanted to help other students understand (notice empathy's integration) some of the similarities and differences between their own culture and the culture here in the United States. They created a powerful keynote that showed comparisons ranging between TV shows, foods, and many other things. Below is their converted presentation. When I asked this group about why their work mattered, they initially had to think. This allowed this group to think deeply about why the work that they did mattered. They provided a later reflection where they shared it was important to them to "let others know how they grew up ... how they lived ... so we can show them how we experience life." This group then presented their presentation to the school's newly formed Equality Club. The group was a bit unsure about doing this initially but we pushed them to share their work. One of our colleagues who was in the room during the presentation shared how proud that she was of them for sharing and how informative it was.
This example is but one of many of the amazing design challenges that our students came up with during this rotation. Overall, we were very pleased to see how much the students had grown and changed from the first part of the year. It is my hope that the experiences that our students have had in Design will provide them with the skills necessary to be successful in any job in the future. But further, I pray that we were able to give them experiences to help them believe in themselves and know that they have the skills, knowledge, and attributes necessary to lead a productive life where they are able to adapt to an ever changing world and solve complex problems while making the world a better place.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.