Friday, May 4, 2012

C21: Collaborative Castles

Our 4th grade was doing a literature unit on Elizabeth Winthrop's A Castle in the Attic.  Our 7th grade was about to begin a social studies unit on medieval European history.  One day just a few weeks ago, it dawned on Mrs. Brittney Friedman, our 4th grade General Studies teacher, that this was an opportunity to take all of our talk about project-based learning and the necessity of teaching collaboration, and put it into action.

So Mrs. Friedman and Dr. Whitney Kennon, our 7th grade History teacher, put their creative minds together and out came a learning experience unlike any other we've ever had here at the MHA.  Instead of the traditional presentation of material by the teacher followed by some sort of demonstration by the students of what they had or had not assimilated, the 7th graders were going to be responsible for learning about medieval life through the construction of blue prints and a detailed model of a medieval castle.  They'd have to know what each part of the castle was, what function it served, and build it accordingly. What's more, they weren't going to do it alone.  In every 7th grade group there was going to be at least one 4th grader as well. Rubrics for every step of the project - from the design, to the research, to the paper, to the presentation - ensured that their work would be of high quality and a reflective tool in which each student had to comment on the participation of others in their group ensured that everyone would pull their weight thus honing their collaboration skills.

To say that the project created excitement is an understatement.  Watching the presentations it was clear, though, that they not only enjoyed what they had done, but the learning which took place was rich, sophisticated, and, in all likelihood, will stick with them for quite some time.

Have a look at 7th graders Efraim Weiner, Ahron Braverman, and Kayla Weinstein, together with 4th grader Yehudis Tova Samuels, presenting on their castle's privies and piranhas...

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