One of my great passions in education is making GIANT connections to learning. Once a year I try to go big in some way, shape or form. Going big (in my opinion) shows students that learning can be fun, but also that you care enough to make a grand gesture.
Over the past 4 years, I have organized a "Court of Dreams" Thunder basketball day of math experience for my school. This includes all grade levels (PreK through 12th) separated into grade bands working on math on the Thunder basketball court. This is a fun-filled day and the Thunder Broadcast Team usually make a point to interview one or two students and make a huge deal out of it. The Thunder has grown accustomed to fulfilling Court of Dreams requests so that HS basketball teams can get the experience of playing on the court of their heros, but our school was the first to use the basketball court to do math lessons. All of the lessons are centered around basketball and every kid got to shoot baskets as well.
Then there was this time I create a once in a lifetime red carpet event for my 8th graders. I assigned each student their own standard with the expectation that they would have to teach the lesson. The students worked on these lessons for a month. Each of them becoming their own master of the knowledge. I asked another teacher to join in on this fun, because there were more standards to cover than I had students. It was a blessing that she was just as amazing at the over the top planning as I was...maybe more so.
While the students were researching, writing and planning their lessons, Jenn and I were busy making the event come to life. We grabbed students from the Tech center working their way through a cosmetology class to do hair and makeup for the students. We hired a limo to take the students to the location of the special event. The guy owed her a favor, so this was at no cost.
Sidebar - For what it's worth, most of the time when I ask a local company for something and let them know that A.) I am a teacher and B.) its for the kids...they say yes. I always, always, always have every single student promptly write a thank you note so that they are willing to give again in the future.
- First, we did buy a "red carpet" from party city at the cost of $11.99. We thought it would really set the tone.
- Next, Jenn and I hired 5 photographers from Craigslist. All of them were up and coming photographers so they charged nothing. I take that back...one of them wanted $25. I paid it because I averaged the cost of the 5 photographers into the $25 and I needed more paparazzi.
- I purchased a drag and drop logo'ed banner with the school's logo on it. I had a student whose parent owned a banner making company so they did the job at cost. I paid $50 for the sign, but I have re-used that sucker over and over.
- The venue we were able to get free.
- We invited some VIP, like State reps, parents, principals and of course the founders of the school.
On the day of the event, after hair and makeup were done, the students hopped into the limos for a ride across town. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a man decked out in a suit opening the door to a crowd of paparazzi shouting the names of our "stars". They walked the red carpet inside where another group of paparazzi was shouting for pictures in front of the banner. We finally entered the room and there it was showtime. The students took turns presenting the standards in order, in their own multiple intelligences. We had game shows memorized and performed, art colorfully depicting all of the battle scenes with a story narrated by the artist, songs written and sung. We have presentation after presentation. This was a huge risk to take as the students put so much time into one standard (at the time it was a tested topic) would they have received (from the other students) enough to make it into their brains and stick?
As it turns out, between Jenn and I every single one of our kids scored a minimum of proficient on that test. 80% of them scoring advanced. But it wasn't about that test. Those students, to this day, can recite the songs and poems and remember all about the game shows they presented. The knowledge was created and curated, completely owned by the students.
I am thinking it's time to add a new event to the repertoire. I'm not sure what I am going to do exactly at this point, but I see it including movie making...maybe. I don’t know. Do you have any big ideas?