Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Blair Elementary, the school I was a teacher-librarian and resource teacher at for the last three years. The parents are fundraising to build a new playground and April Chan, the teacher-librarian and resource teacher invited members of the PAC, the school’s principal and Chris Loat and I to attend a presentation from a group of students that she has been working with.
This group of students comes together once a week to do personalized inquiry projects. This term, the group embraced the idea of designing a new playground for their school. They interviewed and surveyed students to see what would be important to have in a playground and brainstormed ideas in their inquiry notebooks. The students worked in small groups to design a model playground, gathering lists of ideas and materials needed.
The students then created scale models, many of which were developed directly from “blue prints” the students created.
The students presented their playground models, explaining why they chose certain elements or themes and described the process they went through in designing and creating their models.
Members of two of the groups also then used the tech phenomenon of Minecraft to build their playgrounds. The students navigated us through three-dimensional models of their playgrounds up on the big screen.
Here is a shot of the Minecraft model of a playground followed by the other model the students created.
I jumped on the Minecraft bandwagon when my sons became quite passionate about it. I watched and asked lots of questions and could see the potential for it in the classroom, if used with guidance and parameters. Last year, I was fortunate to work with this same group of students at Blair. For one of our inquiry projects we looked at innovation and students created Rube Goldberg type contraptions. Three of the students created and presented their work using Minecraft and were tremendously engaged.
Lots of curriculum connections can be found in mathematics and science but more importantly, the process of inquiry, problem-solving, design-thinking and collaboration are competencies we know we want all students to develop while they are in school and these were all core to this project.