Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ramps: To intervene or not? That is *always* the question!

In my classroom, one of the ways I try to engage our young learners is through investigation. I like to discover (through observation) a topic that the students are interested in, find ways to build learning around it, and help scaffold their learning. The key though, is to realize when the students need you to help scaffold their learning, and when they are able to do it themselves.

From the beginning of the school year, many of us have been fascinated by ramps and building ramps. At first, I thought that would make a wonderful project for us. However, as I continued to observe, I realized there really wasn’t anything else I could add to the discovery. The children, on a daily basis, have helped each other build their knowledge of ramps, and what ramps can do. As I spoke with the children, I learned that the children already knew a lot about ramps. They had already figured out which ramps made the cars go farther, faster, and how to build one with the proper incline for what they needed.

At first, our ramps started out being built from the floor.

We enjoyed pushing the cars over the ramps and bridges.

As time went on, the floor ramps became steeper, allowing for more force behind our vehicles.

Sometime, around a month ago, we discovered that if we lean the block against the bookshelf, we have a steeper ramp, which makes the cars go farther and faster.

Now, we have begun adding extra ramps, so the cars go fast AND jump.

The more we work on this, the more complex our ramps are becoming.
Through all of this, the students are learning not only about force and motion and gravity, but about problem solving. About team work. About trial and error. These are what we call "21 Century Skills." These are the skills we will need as we grow and mature, not only for school, but for life. 

So, I continue to reflect. Do I need to add myself into their "conversation"? Or is what I add only going to diminish the work already done. As I observe I notice that it is true what they say about learning: your peers really do teach and encourage you to learn more than your instructor does. So, for now,  I'll watch to see what I can learn. I will allow them to teach each other -and me.