Friday, February 3, 2012

Teacher Feature: Liz Buchan & Idea Time

Screenshot of one of Chloe's Creations.
Have you heard the sound of hammering, sawing, and sewing coming from Liz's Fifth Grade classroom every Thursday morning? That's the busy hum of creativity at Idea Time in 5-B. Idea Time takes inspiration from Google's concept of 20% time. Each week her students have a chunk of time set aside to work on a project of their choice. When it's finished, the student will present it to the class or the Lower School at a morning meeting.

At the beginning of the project, Liz asked the kids to find a problem they were interested in solving or to think of a topic they were interested in learning more about. Ideas came slowly at first, but eventually the kids picked ideas as wide ranging as making a dog house, fixing a model train, and creating sculptures. Students were excited to have time during the school day to pursue their passions. A few students have presented their projects so far. Jake and Will made a bike ramp, tested it, and filmed a movie showing the final result. Chloe has presented her project on fashion design resulting in sewn clothing for her dolls. 

Liz came up with the idea for including Idea Time in her weekly schedule at the BLC conference last August. Many speakers at the conference spoke about how to engage learners and reformat the traditional classroom. Ewan McIntosh, a keynote speaker at BLC, spoke about the importance of problem finding versus problem solving for students in the 21st Century. Most problems that students are being asked to solve in school can be answered by Googling it, which may not promote deep thinking about a topic. The challenge comes from creatively thinking about problems that can't be Googled. McIntosh calls this "Design Thinking" and believes that the "future belongs to the curious." 
A screenshot of my notes from Ewan's keynote address on Design Thinking and Problem Finding. 
If this piques your curiosity and sounds like something you'd like to investigate for yourself, please consider attending BLC2012 in July. It's an amazing experience. Shore sent a group of 5 teachers and some of the TechTeam last year. Talk to Sander, Anneke, Liz, Ellen, Elyse, Susan, Dave, or me to learn more! We can't recommend it enough. Let us know if you want to go.

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