Awe inspiring: Watching students take control of learning #AprilBlogADay

planningboardDon’t you just love this planning board? It’s filled with ideas, to-do lists, plans, and other information that will help make our first annual STEM Maker Fest a success. This board is in the room where my team eats lunch, so I get to see the information on the board evolve on a daily basis. Do you know what’s even more impressive about this board of plans? It wasn’t written by teachers or other adults. We placed the responsibility of planning the STEM Maker Fest into the hands of our students, and this is just one of the results. Primarily our juniors are taking care of all of the planning, logistics, sponsorships and other information that is necessary to make a major even like this happen. This board of plans is just part of their handiwork. Seeing this board every day is awe inspiring.

Our other students, especially our freshmen and sophomores are creating the booths and learning experiences for everyone who will attend the Maker Fest. On March 24, we had a Mini Maker Fest during the school day for students to show off their progress and so we could decide what booths would be moving forward. It was amazing! Watching students share and teach each other, excited about STEM concepts was amazing! Seeing all of the hard work students put into their projects begin to pay off as they shared with teachers, visitors, and other students was inspiring. We quickly noticed what ideas drew a crowd, and we expect to see similar results during the actual STEM Maker Fest.

Want to come out and see all of the amazing things happening? If you are in the Atlanta area, please plan to join us on Saturday, May 16 from 10 am – 2 pm at Lanier High School in Sugar Hill, GA. Believe me, you’ll be filled with awe and inspired as well!

One of my favorite exhibits was this booth showing the effects of sound waves on Non-Newtonian fluids. As soon as they started playing music, a huge crowd of students had gathered around to watch what was happening. Another group is showing kids how to make the Non-Newtonian fluid, so we’ll place the booths side by side so kids can see how it works and then make their own!

Mini Maker Fest Booth from Janelle Wilson on Vimeo.

One of the other inspiring things is how our students work together to plan their exhibit. Look at these two amazing examples of planning sites. We ask our students to create a web site for every project in order for them to organize what needs to get done. It’s also a great testament to the hard work they are doing. It’s times like this I am reminded of the amazing potential in all of our students!

Our students are capable of amazing things when we give them the opportunity. This is one of the reasons I love working in a project based learning (PBL) STEM environment. Experiences like this should be available to all students. Slowly, change is coming to education. Our learning experiences are becoming more authentic and inspiring. And one of the craziest things about this entire project? It’s not tied to any specific content standard. Sure, it fits well with our science, language arts, and technology classes, but at the heart of this project is a desire for students to share knowledge with others. This is an experience they will never forget. This is true learning. It’s awe inspiring watching students take control of their learning!