For this blog post, I’d like to turn the attention away from my family and towards the entire tribe (or school in the traditional parlance). I’d like to do this by focusing on the Exhibition of Learning which takes place at the end of each session.
At the exhibition, parents are invited to come see what their child has been working on over the session. Sometimes the presentation includes their progress on core skills (reading, writing, and arithmetic) but generally the focus is on their work in quest. Quest is the portion of the day where heroes (students) work on a big project. These generally include hands-on project based work covering a wide range of subjects from science, history, economics, engineering, entrepreneurship, etc. Quests are presented as games where they compete first as individuals or teams, and then against the other studios (classrooms.) At the end of the quest heroes work together to present their work to parents.
As the name Exhibition of Learning implies, what we as parents see at the end is not just the learning that took place, but how the heroes chose to exhibit it. While guides pose questions to encourage an exhibition that will be well thought out and engaging the heroes themselves ultimately structure and present their own learning. Let’s see how this played out in the most recent exhibition.
Theme: My world and me
This session the Discovery studio looked inward to investigate their personal feelings, coping mechanisms, and special gifts. The exhibition consisted of one hero narrating the exhibition to the crowd while each hero took turns stepping into the spotlight and telling the audience about themselves. Some were shy and soft spoken as expected. (Which is great. They’re failing early and often, so they will be well prepared when they go to speak in front of a large group as an adult.) Others were confident and energetic. What impressed me most was their focus. They all waited patiently for their turn to speak and knew what to say when the time came. While possibly not the most engaging exhibition for the audience, I love that they are reflecting on what makes them unique and practicing real world skills. This is what “learning to be” looks like.
Theme: Marine Science
Having lost to Discovery in the past, the explorers really stepped up this time with a big emphasis on the aesthetics of their exhibition. The heroes used blue film over the lights, a fog machine, and paper mache sea creatures hanging from the ceiling to turn their studio into an immersive underwater experience. It wasn’t all sizzle and no steak though, they also took turns presenting the different topics of their quest including coral reefs, how light affects creatures in the deep, and problems/solutions facing the ocean. They clearly had fun and learned a lot. With their innovative presentation they showcase a great example of “learning to do.”
Again, losing to our youngest heroes seems to have lit a fire under the Pathfinders this session. The studio took on a huge challenge from Mark Rober (YouTube star, and professional engineer.) Their results were a machine that stirs Ramen for you, an LED art display, and a motivational alarm clock/candy dispenser. One of the hero’s may have even found his ultimate calling as he also programmed and created an electronic instrument on his own time. One student took the lead in presenting their process and final builds. While he did a great job, I wouldn’t be surprised if the parent feedback leads them to have everyone present a portion of the work next time. Since they seem to have really focused on developing a new skill set I would call this “learning to learn.”
This is just a snapshot of the growth that takes place at ESTEAM Academy. Whether they knock it out of the park, or fail miserably is besides the point. As long as they get feedback, reflect, and incorporate their triumphs and failures into the next exhibition progress is being made. I have no doubt that by the time these kids enter the “real world” they will have practiced and honed all the skills they need to succeed.
About the Author: Daniel, father of 2, new Tribe members as of the 2020-2021 School Year.