This is a set of blog entries that document my capstone project. To view in chronological order, click on the October 2012 link in the right hand column.
Students spent time researching the needs for the RMS playground by talking to other students. They also explored creative playgrounds and ideas on the internet. Students collected sites and printed images they found useful and appealing.
We have an interesting situation at RMS. We are not an upper elementary or a junior high school. We are not even a typical middle school. RMS houses 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students. The need for a playground, or at least an area for the students to socialize outside, is apparent.
To energize students we circled up around the room and quickly went around the room recalling our favorite memories of recess/playground as an elementary student. Students recalled using their imagination often, playing on slides, swinging from bars, playing tag, and the excitement of kickball.
Our current playground consists of a parking lot with a few four-squares, three leaning basketball goals on a small pad of concrete, two tether ball poles, and one large gazebo. The students noted positives about our current playground:There is ample room with a huge field and outdoor classroom with many paths. The gazebo is beautiful and was built by our technical school students. There are three basketball goals and always games going. But the problems the students came up with were interesting:
Wow! Watching my students collaborate to create their prototypes today was so exciting! I observed cooperation, positive words, laughter, smiles, sharing of more than supplies, helping each other, focus, brain-storming, and leadership from even the most quiet kids! Very few asked for help and those who did need assistance just needed help finding supplies they couldn't locate. I believe the set up of my classroom and simple, yet specific expectations were helpful. I plan to better label some of my supply drawers with pictures (I already have them labeled with words) to make the room more visual and accessible. I also think the energizer I did at the beginning of the class helped get the kids moving! This rotation has only one boy. I put him in the middle and the girls and I stood in a circle around him. I told him it was his lucky day because he was surrounded by beautiful women! He loved it and everyone had a nice chuckle. It certainly wasn't anything I planned, but it was fun and got everyone moving!
Cooper-Hewitt has lots of useful resources!
Students posted problems they wanted help solving or wanted to tackle in order to make life better for an RMS student. After all problems were posted, students were placed in small groups of 3 to 5. Each group selected one problem they wanted to solve. Through a large group discussion, we talked about how some things can seem worse than they are. I asked each group to come up with two positives about their problem. I believe this was important because of the topic involving ways to make their life better. I didn't want everything to seem negative.
Using the Design Thinking process, students collaborated to discuss the problem. They defined and focused the problem and then they began brainstorming to come up with creative solutions. I encouraged students to do more research outside of class by interviewing others, online discovery, and observation over the weekend.
The problems the students selected and defined include:
1. Crowded halls
2. Feeling tired
3. Crowded gym
4. Announcements are too long
5. Lockers are too small
I created a handout, What Bothers You, to assist students with things that bother them. Students kept a log of challenging things throughout the day. Some of their "problems" surprised me.
Top Ten 7th grade Problems:
1. Too tired to get out of bed
2. Crowded bus
3. Crowded gym, not enough space in the morning
4. Crowded halls
5. Boring lectures
6. Lunch is too short
7. Study Hall is too short
8. Too much homework, not enough time to finish homework
9. Lockers too small and too crowded to use them
10. Announcements start too early, can't hear announcements
My husband reminded me: You don't look for anything, but you watch for everything! Thanks, Jamie!
1. I envisioned the kids tackling a BIG project. I have discovered they are more open to and more excited about smaller projects that take less time. They are extremely excited about each project, but seem more focused on the problems where we spend 3 days as opposed to six days.
2. When I allowed the students to pick their own partners or groups, they always migrate to the same people in which they feel comfortable. When I have played games to pair or group the students, they are actually more focused and more successful with their work. Groupings have occurred through commonalities such as eye color, height, birthday, color chips, etc. All students have been respectful with their groupings. One day a student came in late. Without being told or asked, another student asked the late student if they wanted to join their group. These were not kids who commonly were friends. This made me smile!
3. I have discovered the girls want to solve problems more with talking, writing, and sketching, while boys are quick and eager to solve problems by constructing three-dimensional prototypes. When I mixed girls and boys together, students were more successful than if genders were separated.
4. I witnessed two of the quietest girls step up on their own and lead a group to solving a problem after others were unsuccessful.
5. The number of students asking for my help has diminished considerably since the first week of learning the Design Thinking process. They have turned more toward each other for help and brainstorming. The fear of failure has also diminished.
6. Good character traits such as responsibility, acceptance, leadership, perseverance, consideration, and cooperation have been evident in each student. Students have not argued or been negative. I have only witnessed two kids debating why one idea was better than the other. I have been pleasantly surprised at how everyone else has been open to all ideas and easily come to agreements on final decisions.
7. The class meets 3 days a week for 25 minutes. We meet on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This has proven to be a challenge as kids are also pulled out every two weeks. Therefore, every two weeks, the groups change. The inconsistency of meeting times have made me realize the smaller, shorter problems are more successful. Given the opportunity to research outside of class, students typically do not respond. They tell me it's because they forget because they are so busy with everything else!
The students were given the challenge of designing their own app. I asked them to imagine an app that would be useful to others as well as themselves. Before actually diving into designing an original app, we discussed and viewed current apps. Students spent a few minutes drawing or re-designing a favorite app and wrote about how and why they use it. Together, the students created a 5' tall iPad!
After imagining a unique app that would be useful to themselves as well as others, students brainstormed together. I encouraged them to think outside of the box. Our motto became: If you can think it, it can happen! Maybe not in our lifetime, but it can happen! Students designed original apps in their sketchbook and wrote an explanation for it. The kids drew a final copy pf their original app on 4"x4" paper and glued it to their 5' iPod. Some of the ideas involved calendars, homework helpers, designing original games and clothing, food distributors, time travel, and apps that aid in helping you wake up feeling well-rested.
The students seemed to really enjoy this activity. Most of the apps 7th graders use involve gaming. But after this activity, most reported being more aware of apps available to help them make life better in other areas. Several students went away with inspiration of looking into designing their own app.
Both the iPad and iPod have been enjoyed on My Big Campus and submitted to the Digital Learning Day site as well as grace the halls of our school.
University of Florida, graduate student.