Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Developing Unique Solutions to Open-Ended Problems

The ability to develop solutions to open-ended problems is an important skill in a knowledge-based economy. Our Grade 9 Science students had an opportunity to gain practice with this skill through the culminating project in the Electricity unit.
Using knowledge developed in the unit, students had to design and build an electrical gadget. This gadget had to include an energy source (battery), conducting wires, and multiple loads (lights, motors, etc.) Students also had to use ammeters and voltmeters to measure their gadget’s current and voltage, and predict how much energy the gadget would use over a 24 hour-period.

Very few initial designs produced the desired result. Consequently, students were forced to continually re-think their initial assumptions and try another approach, which is a key element of effective problem solving. This process also enabled students to demonstrate perseverance and engage in meaningful teamwork, another essential element of problem solving.
Overall, this project enabled students to take risks in thinking and creating, which will be immensely helpful as they move forward with their learning at Greenwood and beyond.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

"Flipping" Student Learning

Educational research indicates that deep learning takes place when there is “interplay between the cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills” (National Research Council, July 2012, p.2). This approach was evident in a recent Grade 10 Canadian History class, as students used “flip debates” to develop a position on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The class began with students using appropriate documents and working in small teams to become familiar with the fact patterns related to this historical event. This team work enabled students to develop such important interpersonal skills as communication and perspective.
Students were then instructed to work with their team to develop a position as to whether the bombing should have taken place. Doing so enables students to think and reason about an important moral issue. Teachers then placed teams with opposing viewpoints on the issue into one group and instructed the group to examine the “flip” side of their position. Ultimately, the team had to reach a consensus on the topic. Adding this step to the process forces students to think carefully and debate both sides of the issues in order to reach a carefully considered point of view.
Having students write about what they learned through the “flip debate” is an excellent intrapersonal activity, as it allows them to assess how their initial position on the issue evolved.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Integrating Student Learning

Grade 7 Integration Week helps students make vital connections between the different subjects that they learn in school. By creating a challenge for students to respond to that incorporates what they have learned across their courses, from Science, Math, English, and Social Studies students can see the connections between what are often perceived to be separate areas of knowledge.

The theme of Grade 7 Integration Week was “How to Survive a Natural Disaster.” Canadian author Eric Walters, who writes on the theme of survival, spoke to the students about the inspiration behind his stories and what it takes to survive disaster. Being able to hear from an author such as Walters, whose books they have read, was inspiring for students, encouraging them to really think deeply about their work during Integration Week.

For the rest of their activities, students broke into teams to solve problems that would arise in the wake of a natural disaster, taken from the pages of an Eric Walters novel. Each challenge required drawing on concepts they learned in class. For example, students applied their learning about heat, insulation, and distillation from science class to the challenge of how disaster survivors could cook food, keep warm, and purify water.

They designed original prototypes of survival aid devices, strategically selected gear for a survival mission, and wrote journal entries from the perspective of a character in their chosen Eric Walters novel. Each challenge required students to think critically, and encouraged the to create unique solutions.
By approaching one challenge from so many angles, they can also determine the best way to solve multi-disciplinary problems in the future. They can apply the strategies they develop from one subject to solve challenges in another. This will help them be more agile, adaptable learners, skills so crucial for lifelong learning.