I am still inspired by Seth Godin’s TED talk about learners and why we have school. It reminds me of one of my favorite days with my young scientists from our entire year.
My 1st Graders had been studying air, how it moves, air pressure, and how it interacts with water. They seemed to get most of the basics of what the effects were from a few simple experiments. Now, it was their turn to create and find a way to solve the challenge.
I gave my class materials, then told them to make a water fountain. Six small groups of small people took some small materials and created some big ideas. Within ten minutes EVERY group had figured out how to solve the challenge, and all but one had figured out a way to safely get the water back into its original container without spilling so they could continue using their homemade water fountains.
Why did I love this so much? Simple, I didn’t say here is how to build the water fountain and then away they went to build. Instead I said, “What do we know about air pressure, air movement, water?” “How can you use these things to make a water fountain?” This was not the “prescribed” water fountain experiment in the lesson, but it was so much better because my class was able to solve a problem, to determine how something worked using knowledge rather than repeating knowledge. It is a moment from this year that will stick out in my memory for a long time. And, I was reminded of it again by the idea that we want kids to be problem solvers, problem identifiers, and problem creators! Twenty-first century learning is not about having knowledge, it is about using knowledge and that is what my 1st graders did during the water fountain experiment!