Our first annual Innovation Day at Schoolcraft Elementary was a total success! Everyone from our students to teachers, to parent volunteers, to community partners learned and grew throughout the morning of June 30, 2017.
The premise of our day began with a MACUL conference session hosted by Ann Smart and Kellie DeLosSantos at which they interviewed a panel of Jackson, MI area educators who had hosted days where students explored the Maker Movement and Ed Technology.
I next reached out to one of the panelists from Mattawan Elementary, Matt Karsten, for some questions and resources and we were off to the races personalizing Innovation Day to our own building.
A small team formed including our Elementary principal and we set some goals/plans for the day:
So we went to work...
First, we created the schedule that allowed for enough sessions that if 3-5 teachers were 'off' during a rotation the class size wouldn't be overwhelming for the rest of the session facilitators.
Next, we crafted some helpful sheets for teachers to plan their Innovation Day sessions, and began to contact local partners who could offer sessions too. Our amazing EL principal, Matt Webster, used his Staff Google Classroom to push out the documents we were building and sharing so staff didn't lose them in their daily deluge of email.
As this moved along we knew that helping students pick their sessions would be integral and also keep them organized throughout the day would be important so we created a schedule they could carry, put around their neck on a lanyard, and/or snap a picture of to make their iPad lock page.
Then there were the necessary extra hands. We had great support with parent volunteers signing up as well as 5th and 7th-grade students who agreed to partner with teachers to support their projects.
As excitement increased (see hype videos -->) students used a sheet to signify which sessions they were interested in and teachers began to use these to sign up students on a spreadsheet (see tabs). We were sure to spread the young and older students in each session so there were some older leaders to help younger students depending on the session difficulty.
Once the day arrived it was a BLAST! We had students arriving early to school, knocking the doors down, wanting to learn! (You usually don't see this mix of anticipation and eagerness except for the first and last days of school). Our students moved about the building respectfully learning about Bloxels, The Audubon Society, Stop Motion, App Smashing with Chatterpix & Pic Collage Kids, tower building, creating dances and more! Our staff and volunteers put together great sessions that embodied our hope for the day. While sessions varied from high-tech to low-tech, each and every student was challenged to critically think, problem-solve and collaborate with varying ages.
The feedback from students, teachers and volunteers alike was overwhelmingly positive. One of my favorite quotes from a 2nd-grade student was, "Can we do this every day? Because if we did I wouldn't fight my mom getting out of bed in the morning!"
Want to relive the day with us? Watch the video below:
As part of Teacher Appreciation Week the organization Educators for Higher Standards asked me to reflect about my early and current life as an educator...
"In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked some of our Teacher Champions to take a moment to reflect on their unique experiences in the classroom and share their thoughts..."
Tell a story about the funniest thing that’s happened to you in the classroom
In my first year of teaching, I had a tough class that I needed to teach about the Alamo. I decided to teach it by fighting the battle of the Alamo with paper wads, and we tipped over desks and chairs while setting up the students for a historically appropriate outcome. That was the day my principal and the district social studies curriculum director decided to do an impromptu drop-in and were immediately pegged with paper wads. Luckily, my students immediately incorporated them into the battle explaining the imbalance of numbers, the reasons the Alamo was falling and the historical premise…and this is why I’m an educator today. I LOVE coming up with crazy ways to engage and motivate students into learning while having fun. I sometimes feel like this is my superpower; the ability to simplify learning while keeping it fun – almost tricking the learners into understanding new concepts! Watching the light bulb go on still excites me daily whether I am working with students, teachers, or administrators.
"I've already collected 22 of those things to give to the office!"
Just a chance to reflect over educational articles and ideas that float through my head.