Engagement is Enough!

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Ad@mK

I love when a metaphor is so clearly portrayed in a picture. We have all heard this one… parent spends an exorbitant amount of money on a toy for their child only to have the child get more out of the box itself. The parent always tells the story as a funny but frustrating anecdote, and with a sigh, laughs at the silliness of it all. In the end, they have a happy baby, excited to play and that’s all that matters.

I have been spending a lot of my free time reading and discussing a number of innovative projects being done by people all over the place. I’ve spent time discussing Genius Hour on the hashtag #geniushour and today, was lucky enough to hang out with the first lady of Genius Hour, Gallit Zvi (tomorrow I am spending the morning in her class for their Genius Hour!). I have been reading about Passion Projects and Fed Ex Days, and of course Innovation Day/Innovation Week. My morning today was spent at the Inquiry Hub with David Truss, hearing how they are able to provide students with the time and space to really take ownership of their learning. Speaking with Gallit and David, you can see their pride in their students and the amazing projects they are doing. They are eager to share just how driven their students are when working on work they care about.

As I read and converse more and more with other people considering these projects, I often hear questions about how the projects are assessed and how they connect with curriculum, and while these are valid questions, they always seemed to irk me a little. I felt like people needed to experience these projects for themselves to see the real power they possess, and if they did, they might not be so worried about the assessment or curricular ties. You see the real power in these projects is the engagement that results in our students when they are given the power to direct their learning. I saw it during our Innovation Week, and I have read about the same reaction is students experiencing Genius Hour, Passion Projects and Fed Ex Days. Kids get excited about learning.

To me, that is reason enough to try one of these projects. After our innovation week, there was excitement residue all over the place. Students talked about their projects, and what they were going to do for the next innovation week. Innovation-style activities started popping up all over our building as teachers embraced the energy from the week and re-created it in their rooms. If we can do projects that get students excited to come to school then we are creating a culture in our buildings of eager students who value learning. Isn’t that a good start for any building?

Eventually, we can add the curricular connections we want our students to make, and we can find appropriate ways to assess their learning, but it doesn’t have to be the driving force behind every learning experience we provide our students. Creating a passion for learning, an engaged young person will pay dividends for us in every lesson we teach so for now Engagement is Enough. We get our excited student the same way we get the excited baby happy just to play with the box, and we can be ok with a student who is just excited to learn as well. If having students excited to learn and engaged in the process is something important to you, think about giving one of these projects a try. While it may not hit the outcomes or end up with a grade on it, I am willing to bet it will be one of the most enjoyable experiences you’ll ever have as an educator.

5 thoughts on “Engagement is Enough!

  1. I’m an elementary principal, and today I spent one of four days on the roof of my school w/kindergarten egg drop. My current school is all K, totaling 25 sections. Concurrent with the oviparous unit in science, our students construct a contraption designed to keep their egg safe as my assistant principal and I toss them from the roof; they do this with family at home, if they’re able, and bring it to show and test. (Doesn’t feel quite right to toss a kid’s work off of the rook, but they love it. 🙂 ) Many parents come to join in the fun, too. All day we couldn’t be more excited about the different ideas that emerged, and it was encouraging to hear children celebrating both creative thinking and trying something new!

  2. Pingback: Engagement is Enough! | Education & Digital...

  3. Jesse,
    How lucky you are to go see Gallit’s classroom! I just had a phone conversation (sort of) with her yesterday, and have been a big fan since Feb., ’12… all because of Genius Hour!
    Anyway, I, too, feel “irked” at the question of curriculum and assessments when something is so very engaging. When students get to choose what they’re doing in school, they WANT to attend. When they are forced to learn a curriculum we (20-40 years removed) deem valuable, they become disengaged. If this happens for years on end, who’s to say they’ll stay in school? Worse yet, who’s to say they’ll ever become life-long learners? In the big scheme of things, grades don’t matter. LEARNING matters. Thanks for this post!! I’m adding it to the Genius Hour LiveBinder under the tab “WHY Genius Hour” !

  4. Agree with stressing the learning. With our egg drop, even though it is linked to curriculum, it isn’t graded. I find the learning to exist in both the creation with the families and the conversation students have about what worked and what didn’t work coupled with their observations and predictions. Also love that they generally add something that reflects their interests, from car stickers, to painting, to a whole lot of sparkle.

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