Creativity and Learning

I am so excited about creativity and learning. I can’t read enough or learn enough about how students learn and what creativity has to do with it. (Speaking of reading and learning about creativity and learning: I’m just finishing up The Element by Sir Ken Robinson for #geniushour chat on Wednesday, January 2, at 8:00 p.m.)

Tonight my husband and I had three little girls come over for some fun, food, and fellowship while their parents went out to eat and to a movie. They brought a bunch of new toys and fun things to do, and we did almost all of what they brought. There was one thing we didn’t do, though. Here are some things the four-year-old said, which will show why…

“I brought all these coloring books, but I don’t want to use them.”
“Do you have any plain white paper?”
“Can we hang them up?”
“Doesn’t our art museum look nice?

I was tickled that she was so creative and had so much fun. Her two sisters (ages 1 and 2) and my husband and I were creating up a storm too. I was impressed that Keith just kept going in and getting more paper whenever they ran out.

One of the things I did on my paper was to make dots and connect them, and Miss A asked me what I was doing. I told her about the video I watched yesterday where Vi Hart connected dots and made really beautiful mathematical creations. She was curious. I made a graph for her to connect some dots.


We had so much fun! Creativity and learning. It was happening here tonight. And I’m glad the coloring books stayed in the bag.

Take One Step at A Time

Last year at about this time, a few of my students and I wanted to learn how to make a robot. I had heard Gary Stager suggest robot building was one thing you could do with a laptop.

I had absolutely no experience or knowledge about making a robot, but I did learn enough to know that Lego Mindstorms NXT Software was a good place to start. Then I realized that besides lacking experience and knowledge, I also had no resources.

So, we temporarily gave up our dream of building a robot, and instead we learned to program on Scratch, which we thought was a step toward robotics.

Now, here we are just one year later. Things have changed, thanks to the State of Iowa’s Scale Up STEM grants. We received a grant to be part of the FIRST LEGO League and to receive a LEGO Mindstorms robot. Yesterday we took our robot, Roger, and competed in a regional FLL competition.

During the Robot Design challenge, Roger drove from base and onto the bridge without wavering. It was the most rewarding moment of competition!

On Saturday during breaks in the competition, we dreamed of how to extend our learning. We want to spend a portion of our remaining grant to get another robot, so the team can get better, but also so more people can learn to program robots. We talked about trying to do programming during part of our exploratory class and then have our own competition among teams.

These discussions were happening at the end of our competition. This was on a Saturday. They got up before dawn and drove 1.5 hours to be there all day long. These kids are passionate, lifelong LEARNERS!

I can’t help but think of what wonderful things are in store for us next year!

What steps are you and your students taking on the road to lifelong passionate learning?

It’s 12/12/12!

It’s 12/12/12, and I have at least 12 x 12 x 12 reasons I love my junior highers. Since listing all 1,728 reasons could be time and space prohibitive, I’ll just list 12 reasons I love my students.

  1. They have spirit. They do things with enthusiasm. When we have dress up days for special occasions, I can’t wait to see what they will wear next. When asked to sell coffee and chocolate this fall for a school fundraiser, they hit a home run, smashing through the $11,000 goal that was set.
  2. They are game for new experiences. First Lego League, KidWind, geocaching…it doesn’t matter. When I introduce something new, students rise to the occasion. Someone grabs the reigns and inspires the more reluctant to join in the pandemonium.
  3. They know how to laugh. Of course, all kids laugh! I must say, though, one of the wonderful things about my students is, for the most part, they know how to laugh. They know how to laugh with people, not so much at people.
  4. They are passionate learners. They are becoming lifelong learners and taking ownership of their learning. My students always have their next idea for genius hour on deck.
  5. They take a challenge with grace and persistence. For instance, in August I told my students I wanted them to take the 40-book challenge, reading more than they’ve ever read before. Many are on track to read 40 or many more books. When I ask them how they are doing on that challenge, almost all say yes, they are reading more than they ever have before.
  6. They contribute, making the world a better place. I could go on and on about this, but two things. In the fall, they raised $1780 for American Cancer Society. Along with the high school students, this month they brought in a pile of presents, wrapped and ready to give to two needy area families.
  7. They don’t mind my messes.They joke with me. They ask why Roz isn’t doing her job reminding me to “file the paperwork.” But, all in all, they are patient with my messes.
  8. They know how to be underdogs. Our school is small. They love sports and the students play with passion and enthusiasm, always rejoicing in a win, but not getting downtrodden with the losses.
  9. They love God. I love being in a Catholic school where we can worship and pray together.
  10. They love others. Because God said loving people is a priority, my students take that seriously. They love each other like brothers and sisters. They love their church, community, and the world…
  11. Including me. I am so blessed to be able to call myself their teacher. They make me happy to come to school because I know they love me.
  12. They are geniuses. They create, produce, question, and make a difference.

I can’t imagine doing anything else with my days!¬†

Here are the students’ 12/12/12 posts.

Nominated for Best Educational Wiki

Nominated for Best Educational Wiki

How exciting! The Genius Hour wiki, started about a year ago, by Gallit Zvi in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, has been nominated for the best educational wiki in the 2012 Edublog Awards.

Congrats to all the genius teachers who, by giving choice to their learners, inspire genius!

You can vote for the Genius Hour wiki by choosing the category of Educational Wiki on the Edublog Award list voting page. You can vote once a day until Sunday.

In Honor of Our Genius Hour Tribe!