Blue drove in head first with two pretty important lessons this week:
- What’s a great question?
- What do I need to do in order to keep myself on task?
Our Great Questions lesson took many iterative forms.
We talked about the criteria for a Great Question: yes/no verses how/why, knowing the answer verses knowing where to find the answer, knowing where to find the answer verses knowing roughly where you might start to look for the answer. We talked about how forming a really Great Questions can lead to sustaining a multi-week investigation, and how taking the time to start researching now (4 weeks before we start to transition out of the Exploration phase of the Arc), might help to sustain your self-directed project later.
This is heavy, heavy stuff for a middle schooler. This flavor of inquiry was something I had to wait until age 28 and year 2 of graduate school to really start to understand. I think that being able to even set up this sort of directed provocation for an 11 or 12 or 13 or 14 year old is a gift, and I treated it as such for the whole week.
The Great Questions that Blue formulated during our first brain dump session were amazing. They ranged from super specific questions about plants and history and animals and each other to things that humanity itself doesn’t have the capacity and/or technology to answer. We talked about all of these. We sorted them. We decided which were too big and which were too small and after establishing a comfortable middle ground, everyone tried again: this time formulating Great Questions about seeds.
We will use these after the Thanksgiving Break to start to narrow curiosities for their Arc projects. In the mean time, just the act of writing out questions has already sparked some research possibilities for a few. I can’t wait to see how this grows.
Blue’s second line of inquiry this week involved practicing self-direction.
We did this for two reasons:
- As we begin to transition out of the Exploration phase of the Arc, I will become less of a facilitator of awesome (sometimes random) learning experiences, and more of a project management partner. I will start to help folks stay on task, and also push them off tasks if the questions become too easy to answer. I will be both Devil’s Advocate and a support system. I will do this because it’s part of my job, but also because I deeply believe in this method of pedagogy — and this transition will not be easy for any of us.
- Secondarily, everybody needs different things in order to be productive, stay focused, and accomplish goals. Everyone’s goals are different. And yet, here we are, all in the same space, for something like 30 hours a week. We gotta work together, and we gotta be respectful of the needs of others and the needs of ourselves.
With that said, the week involved a few scenarios in which I had one-on-one meetings, helped folks get going, and then backed off. It was their job to come to me if they got stuck. It was their job to stay on task. And, it also became their job to sit and reflect about what went right and what went wrong and what they could have done differently.
Leaving time and space for reflection helped everyone take the next day to reset, and try again with a newly established perspective.
During an assessment meeting last week, I told a parent that I think my job here is always about two things: establishing learning scenarios that have specific steps that weave in between one another and also run parallel at times, and that I try to be always transparent about the meta curriculum.
“We are doing this because…”
“This process is important because…”
“Reflection helps bookend because…”
“We are practicing this process because…”
I think the constant transparency helps Blue understand what’s happening and invest in their own learning experiences. These things are tools in a toolbox that you’re building as we go. I’m going to always give them blueprints for the toolbox and the tools.
After all, this isn’t actually about me. It’s for them.