Saturday, April 6, 2013

Reflecting on Day 9

We have an 8 day rotating schedule at ASB, so the first question that people have asked me when I've said we're having a Day 9 is "What the heck is that?"  Day 9 happened on the elementary campus.  It happened because the secondary campus was holding a parent conference day with no lessons for students, and because we needed to keep both campuses on the same day of the schedule.  We therefore had an extra day, and someone decided to call it Day 9.  It was a day that was completely blank on my schedule - what was going to fill it?

At ASB this year one of our goals is personalized learning and having students pursue their passions.  Our other goal is 21st century skills.  While we are eventually going to focus on 9 of these skills, this year we are looking at these 4:  collaboration, critical thinking, information fluency, and creativity and innovation.  As our elementary principal, Joe Atherton, wrote in an email to us.  "There’s no better way to impart our values and skill to our students than by intentionally modeling them ourselves."

The idea behind Day 9 was to base it completely on adult and student interests - we would all follow our passions for a whole day of learning.  All classroom teachers, specialist teachers and teacher assistants were asked to develop a learning project, either on our own or with a partner, based on our own interests,  and then to offer this project to multi-age student groups.  Students were given the opportunity to look at the projects the teachers had come up with and to sign up for the one that most interested them.  The idea was that at the end of Day 9 we would share our learning with the elementary school community.

So what did we come up with?  Teachers used a Google Document to share their essential questions.  Here are some examples of what they wanted to know and do:
  • How can we design, build, test, fly and revise model aircrafts to explore ideas about flight?
  • How do you connect with nature in an urban environment?
  • How can you express your creativity through poetry ?
  • How our actions can positively change the lives of others.
  • How can we use everyday sounds to help create a piece of music?
Our librarian and I decided we would work with photography. We wanted to see how photographs could be used as both documentary and as art. Our aim was that each student would shoot, edit and publish an eBook of his or her photography to share at the end of the day. 

The first thing we did was to give the students a lesson in photography. We had students from Grades 3-5 who had signed up for this, and they were all coming with different skills and experiences. At the start of the day we wanted to give them some examples of different types of photography that they might like to try out. We showed them examples of photojournalism and how they capture events, news, culture and lifestyles. We also showed other types of photography such as portraits, food, sports, nature and wildlife. We talked about using photography as art, including abstract photos and about the difference between candid and posed shots. My daughter Rachel, who is studying art history at university but currently home for the holidays, showed her photography blog and a book of photographs she had published for her MYP personal project where she compared different cultural aspects of Thailand and Switzerland.

We then set off on a walk around the school and in the road outside the school. We were looking for colour, shapes, textures and patterns. We found plenty of these and several examples of the other sorts of subjects to photograph too. We even went into the school kitchens to photograph some food.

This had taken most of the morning, but before lunch I wanted the students to start editing the photographs. We showed the students PicMonkey and had them transfer all their photos to their laptops and start to edit them. We told them to concentrate on 4 main themes and to save their photos into separate folders based on these themes.

In the afternoon we continued with the editing and saving of photos, and then put our favourite ones into a Google Presentation. We asked the students to choose about 5 photos for each of their 4 themes and to add these into the slides with titles. Once the presentations were finished we exported them as PDF files.

Our final job of the afternoon to get ready for the sharing session was to upload the PDF to FlipSnack to turn it into an eBook. This was easy and we were able to produce great photographic eBooks within a matter of minutes. We put our books on display and got ready for other students to come and visit us so we could share our learning.

So that was it - an entire day devoted to taking, editing, presenting and publishing photographs. Take a look at some of these and you will be amazed by the photos. We were amazed by the passion. We all learned a lot from Day 9 and we all had fun doing it.

Grace's Photography
Kavya's Photogrphy

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