In my classroom, I have had the same theme for the last five years. Well, it is not really a theme, but it has bright colors (yellow gold, red, turquoise, and black) with chevron and other shapes. I like it because I can make the classroom inviting to all the students and allow them help me create a place where all could learn. As I have reading A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Brown & Thomas (2011,) I have thought about all the changes I have done in the last three years of teaching first grade. I had to change the way I taught because there was such a range of students and I wanted to reach all of them. Even though that year was such a learning curve for me, it made me learn so much and I felt like I came out of that year a better teacher. Last year, with help of my Learning Technology Coach, I moved my classroom into digital world, using Seesaw (digital portfolio,) green screen, and Pic Collage. This year has also brought more changes with incorporating Growth Mindset and Makerspace.
When some people look at education, they see they changes in how students behave and the different approaches teachers use in their classrooms. My uncle brought up the subject of education on my thanksgiving break. He attended a parochial school with two sets of grade levels and one teacher going back and forth between the groups. Even though there was about thirty kids in a class, he said that there was not much behavior issues. These students lived on the farm and helped their parents in the morning and afternoon with planting, cultivating, and other chores. They had to create their own games and activities, because they did not have a television to sit down to watch or a video game to play.
Today, in our educational world, many people just want the students to learn all that is going to be tested on the standardized test. Brown & Thomas (2011) compares students as “machines being planned to carry out tasks.” They want to see ‘growth’ in scores and it usually stresses out the teachers and then they lose their creative bone and then want out of teaching. There are many instances that the students are scared to make mistakes and they stop trying to learn. Some people do not want students to take time out of the “teaching time” to let students play and use their imagination. How are going to help the students and guide the teachers along the way?
Brown & Thomas (2011) explains “the culture emerges from the environment- and grows along with it.” These last two years, my district has set aside a week to establish rules and relationships between the students and the teachers. My first assignment in my Digital Learning and Leading classes at Lamar University was to write a paper on growth mindset. I decided to use growth mindset in my classroom and I made my lesson plans in this paper how I was going to teach my students this important concept. It was amazing to see the results of growth mindset. The students have to understand that it was important to make mistakes, because that was when we, as a class, learned the most. One day, I wanted to check subtraction and I asked the kids how many fingers I had up (I had five on my left hand and then my thumb on my right.) All of the kids said "6" and then I asked, “How many fingers until you get 10?” A little girl said that I had five, because “you don't count the thumb.” I had to think about it for a couple of seconds and then reminded her that if I did could not count the one thumb, I should have not counted the other thumb. She could not believe that she made that mistake. I think that this experience showed me that it is so important that we (teachers and students alike) have think time to catch our mistakes. This also showed me that students should always want to try to answer questions in the classroom. We do not want students to ever panic when they are asked questions in the class. Brown & Thomas (2011) describes computer hacker, Allen, developing his “computer code by experimenting with various programs and by making mistakes.” If we just take the time to let the students experiment and make mistakes, I know that students will be able to learn so much more.
When I think of imagination, I think of the times that my mom would let my brother and I dress up, make sand castles in our backyard, or create forts in the living room. I know that she allowed us time to play and solve our problems with each other. My mom also presented me with other activities like soccer, Girl Scouts, piano, hand bells, and Odyssey of the Mind. I feel very lucky of having a mom let me choose the activities that would make me into the person and teacher I am today. As a teacher, I have started a Makerspace rotation during math time. This has allowed students to create a lighthouse or a dog robot out of recycled materials. Brown & Thomas (2011) says, “Learning by doing can give a unique and personal set of insights into the means for creating something in the world.” The boy who is creating the lighthouse feels like he is making something that will actually work. He also overhears another boy creating a dog robot who wants to use circuits to make parts light up. This allows collaboration and teaching a science concept. With the process of making, Brown & Thomas (2011) explains, “craft context carries more of the message and then play comes an important role.” As my first graders are in this rotation, they are able to think of the purpose of their creation. This helps them have opportunity to plan and then experiment to make their product.
These experiences in my classroom has led me to propose a Makerspace room for the school. All students should have the opportunity to “pull together resources and experiment with them to see what fits (Thomas & Brown, 2011.) Sir Ken Robinson (2007) quotes in a TED talk that “creativity is as important in education as literacy.” Whether the students are creating or experimenting, they have the chance to solve problems and learn how to self-reflect when they are making something. In my plan for Makerspace, I will be teaching the teachers how coding, design thinking, and other things to help students connect play and imagination. Brown & Thomas (2011) writes in their book “connecting play and imagination may be the single most important step in unleashing the new culture of learning.”
“Where imaginations play, learning happens.”
-The New Culture of Learning:
Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change,
Thomas & Brown
Brown, J. S. & Thomas, D. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY. CreateSpace.
Robinson, K. (2007, January 6). Do schools kill creativity? Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY
Over the last couple of months in all of my master classes, I have learned many things about myself. The first assignment in our classes was reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset, where we learned the difference between fixed mindset and growth mindset. At the beginning of this year, my first graders learned the difference between fixed and growth mindset. I also told them that it was okay to make mistakes because that is how we grow. As I have been working on this project, I have made mistakes. When I made mistakes, I heard great feedback from my classmates and the professor. I thought about how hard I was taking the mistakes I had done in my work and I know that it is the same way for the students in our schools. We, as teachers, need to make them feel safe and successful in what they are doing in school.
So, why Makerspace? I believe that Makerspace will be a safe place where the students can learn to make mistakes and see their own work become a final product. My first graders (and students in my Makerspace club) have had the opportunity to design and create products this year. I can see that they are excited. I see focus in their projects and that carries over to their “regular” school work.
As I was writing my proposal to my principal, I thought about the students whom I have in my class. Most of these students glow when they are creating. When they have a vision, you can’t stop them. One student is making a lighthouse; maybe he will make things like this when he grows up. I had a conversation with a kindergartener (in the club) who explained that he was making a robot dog and it will need circuits. He was so excited! He also told me that he loves science and he is going to be a scientist when he grows up.
Last week, I had the opportunity to go to a science conference. Even though I had learned many things in my research, I decided that I could benefit from classes geared to Makerspace. I was reminded by several people that we need to start teaching students to be innovators, critical thinkers, and problem solvers. I do look forward to reading more.
I am excited about carrying out my plan for Makerspace. This will be a thrilling time at Riverside Applied Learning Center. I hope to get many people on board to accomplish this cool opportunity for the children.
Are you going to be one of them?