This year, the teachers at our school will be studying Rigor and Relevance in professional development.
This week, the first week of school, a few eighth graders saw two problems and worked to fix them. We have a ten foot long and four-inch wide PVC pipe that has been capped and sawed in half lengthwise to make a trough. When we fill the rounded pipe with water to test boats, it’s unstable. We had quite a spill in our classroom on Wednesday. Then when we wanted to remove the water that had not spilled, we had to bail the water out and into a bucket.
Geniuses know how to criticize by creating. And I have those geniuses in my classroom! First, Thomas and Dustin began designing a stand to get it up off the floor and less wobbly. After some discussion with a larger group, Joey is working on a revised design at home. (Update on Monday.)
On Friday morning before school there were eleven people watching the hoopla and contributing to the process of the next step, which was to solve the second problem–emptying the trough. They decided to create a drainage system so when we put water into the soon-to-be sturdy container, we will be able to drain it instead of bail it out.
Look at that hole they are drilling in our trough. Yes, they are risking failure. The problem is challenging, complex, demanding, requires authentic work and “the ability to develop and express ideas and findings through elaborated communication.” (rigor and relevance). (I haven’t done a thing except give them permission because the project is beyond my abilities.)
What kind of learning is better than that? That’s why I’m trying to make school more like genius hour. Real problems, real solutions, real learning.