At The Miquon School, the not knowing is often what keeps our brains engaged; it makes learning an ever expanding puzzle that simply needs someone curious enough to pick up the pieces and keep at it.
Curious and persistent are two adjectives we could use to describe most of our students. At Miquon, we think that these attitudes are innate but require nurturing to be sustained. For teachers, the tricky part is creating experiences that help different kinds of learners flourish in the problem solving process–balancing the needs of students who may desire more guidance to feel confident with those who really just need you to get out of their way.
This winter Science Teacher Kate Shapero adopted a “Workshop Approach,” opening up classroom learning to the essential value in trying things out and creating. She introduced new materials with brief mini-lessons, proposed possible challenges, and then handed over the reins to the children. Not surprisingly, this structured release of control yielded increased responsibility for students. In Kate’s view, students took on much more challenging and personally relevant projects as a result.
“Children worked at their own pace, and focused on what they needed to understand most to move ahead,” Kate reports.
When one student was feeling unsure about how to proceed, another said, “It’s workshop time, just try something.” During the workshop classes, every single child experienced frustrations and setbacks, but they came up with solutions and figured out how to keep moving forward.
Problem-based learning has been used for years in progressive schools. However, it is not the only approach used in the science room. Questions that arose from the workshop were addressed through reading, research, direct instruction, and the scientific process. That said, at Miquon, the workshop approach is fostering a whole new kind of engagement–instead of experimenting to only understand, children here are experimenting to create.