My morning started in Chula Vista sitting in on a charrette. This is essentially a short intense period of design planning. Britt Shirk 9th grade (year 10) Humanities teacher and her teaching partner Regina Kruglyak used the charrette with two other teachers to gain new insights to how they could make their ‘Tiny Homes Project‘ even more effective. This is a stunning project already! The charrette focused around how they could frame plunges (visits to the community) to ensure students are empathetic to different groups within the community. They also wanted ideas to connect the plunges to the bigger project outcome.
The teachers in the charrette discussed a huge range of community opportunities, the teachers here are incredibly well connected. Students will be visiting a whole range of ‘foreign environments’ as indicated in the photograph below. The idea is for students to gain authentic experiences and empathise with how different people live and have various different needs. The charette moved from ideas for plunges to how to connect these to the project. This was done by deciding on possible essential questions for the project that can draw everything together. Students will use various design elements in their plunges. The Field Guide to Human Centred Design is a very useful resource for large scale projects.
The second part of my day I visited a 5th grade class in the Explorer elementary school. Students were working on a report on their google docs about earthquakes in San Diego. The students had an impressive and faultless understanding of plate tectonics. They had been taught about divergent and convergent plate margins and how volcanoes and earthquakes form at each. Ultimately, they would be presenting to parents ideas about what would happen is an earthquake occurs in San Diego. The teacher was giving feedback to students in real time and in discussion and visible in the classroom, the structures and ‘norms’ to allow students to produce this work were clear to see.
In the evening I attended High Tech Middle in Point Loma whole school exhibition. This was a stunning event. The place was packed with incredibly proud parents. There was a huge array of innovative project ideas on display both small and large scale. Some projects could be applied to the UK system such as a nice project where students had researched important discoveries. There was an awesome book about biomimicry that I also think could be done in a UK classroom. Another cool project on display was about ideal careers; students had written a resume and an application letter to a college alongside a representative art piece about where they want to be in the future. They have a great ‘exploratory’ subject called Studio M that allows students to create wonderful products some as seen in the photographs. An exploratory subject is essentially Art, Drama and Spanish which are on rotation across the semesters. For the core lessons students will have 2 teachers who will teacher Humanities and integrated Math/Science in partner groups. HTM includes grades 6,7,8 or year 7,8,9. These are the year groups in the UK that we have most freedom with in terms of exams. These are the students we should be giving more authentic experiences to. Using the rigorous knowledge, understanding and skills they need for external examinations later, these can form standards that can be used to frame wonderful innovative projects.