This summer I am teaching a series of what we’re calling “Imagination and Invention Camp: Creating Chain Reaction Sculptures” at Cuyahoga County Public Library branches. The programs have been the ideal platform to apply what was learned in Boston during our recent professional development trip. These camps are a continued evolution of an 8th grade kinetic sculpture residency that I taught this past school year. This summer, we are enhancing the work of the program by guiding students into incorporating Scratch and Lego WeDo hardware into their kinetic sculptures.
After conversations during our Boston trip with administrators and students at the Boston Arts Academy (BAA) and directors at The Tinkering Studio, I have been inspired to observe my students on a more frequent basis and provide them with time to experiment void of adult influence. It was incredibly inspiring when a high school student at BAA explained how she formulated her own service project, followed through with its implementation, and completed it with the support, but not leadership, of educators. It was apparent that she had pride in her work, which was obviously a result of her initiative and hard work paying off in a real-world scenario. The importance of this self-guided learning time was also prevalent in the videos that The Tinkering Studio directors shared with us at MIT. It is in my nature to want to jump in and “help” students who are “stuck” by providing ideas, working out sketches with them, and suggesting materials to use. This will always have a place in my teaching, but I have pushed myself to allow students this summer to explore more of their own ideas, make decisions, test them, succeed (or fail) and make iterations. I have found it challenging and rewarding to provide this space and time. This summer, I have observed students gaining a better understanding of their social dynamics within a working group. I have been inspired by students’ work and have been able to determine additional examples that may be helpful to share, what challenges and excites them, and what intimidates them. This information has empowered me to be a more successful educator, providing opportunities as opposed to solutions.
During our Imagination and Invention Camps, we present students with design challenges. This work has allowed students to gain a sense of personal responsibility to their project, learn that knowledge can be gained through failure, and begin forming bonds with other camp attendees. As an educator, I’m able to see which students have previous experience constructing an object they’ve designed, which need more assistance using tools, which need to be pushed to experiment with materials they are unfamiliar with, and which groups should be combined to make strong final project teams. I’m looking forward to further implementing the lessons I learned on our Boston trip, along with the types of design challenges we’ve developed this summer, into the residencies that I will teach this fall in our Cleveland Metropolitan School District partner schools.