At the regional P3 meeting in Paducah (McCracken County), I had the opportunity to talk to Janet Throgmorton, the principal at Fancy Farm Elementary in Graves County. She described an innovative learning experience for 3rd through 6th graders at her school. These students were surveyed at the beginning of school and asked "If you could choose to learn about anything, what would you choose?" At first, Principal Throgmorton said that students had trouble coming up with ideas "outside the box." She stated that she believed that students were saying what they thought the adults wanted to hear and that included traditional topics at school. She pressed students to choose anything. The students ended up choosing topics including sewing, scrapbooking, carpentry, animal science, drama, computer building, Greek mythology, cooking, sign language, robotics, and community service. Then, for a week in October, all students in grades 3 through 6 learned about one of these topics, based on their choice. Because teachers at the school were not necessarily knowledgeable about these topics, community members, a retired drama teacher, and a district office worker who was also a seamstress, aided in the learning.
What happened? Well, students were learning skills in areas of their passion, so excitement ensued! In fact the principal reported that parents were telling her that students who didn't have much to say when asked what they were learning at school were suddenly 'wearing their parents out' with information as soon as they came home! When one student was asked why she enjoyed the activities so much, she stated that she finally got to be creative at school! A community member, who assisted with one of the learning events, stated that if school had been like that for him, that he wouldn't have dropped out. Students in grades 3 through 6, some who had learning disabilities, programmed a robot to move and to pick up objects, working about an hour a day for one week. A student who has played soccer for several years was excited that he learned to organize all of his photos and memorabilia in a scrapbook. Students, who didn't know how to before, learned to sew on buttons for themselves and made a pillow. One group of students didn't get to finish their community service project in the time allotted, so they asked parents to take them to the site after school the next week, so that they could finish what they had started. For a week, students were impassioned for learning more than they had been before. Teachers, community members, and district office personnel experienced working with students in ways that they had not before.
So, what happened? The school decided that they don't want this to be an isolated event. They are going to offer this to students every quarter. The district office lunch table is discussing what others in the office might be able to offer to teach for the next three occasions. Students are excited about learning. Community members are discovering ways to offer assistance. Students are talking about what they might want to do in their future careers and they are discussing with excitement what they want to learn next! This is school. This is what we do. This is why we do what we do. Sign me up.
When you have a question, find a great resource to share, or want to make a 'shout out' to someone in P3, just use the hashtag #P3KY . In fact, you may search #P3KY on Twitter to see what has been accumulated so far!
Additionally, we have a Facebook Page...Principal Partnership Project
Stay tuned for upcoming Twitter chats and other updates!