In November, I wrote a post about the book/PBS documentary series “How We Got to Now” by Steven Johnson. If you haven’t read this book or watched the series, it is a must! Truly, this is one of those books that has stayed with me. I’m not the only one. Students from 1st-8th grade at Anastasis have become fascinated with Steven Johnson’s journey through the six innovations that made the modern world. The way that Steven weaves the story is remarkable. It reminds us just how interconnected the world is and that innovation doesn’t happen in isolation, but as a result of connection. This book, perhaps more than any we’ve read as a school, has reminded us of the beauty of inquiry. What happens when hunches collide and people pursue those hunches.
I love the way that Johnson explores innovation through these 6 lenses. Instead of offering up the typical “heroes” of invention, Johnson introduces students to concepts that span hundreds of years of invention and many of the unsung heroes. The six innovations include: glass, time, clean, light, sound, and cold. I’m telling you, the way that Johnson helps kids see connections in innovation and invention is brilliant! So much the way that inquiry works.
In my first post, I wrote about how our students had imagined these innovations as a series of dominoes. Each new discovery leads to the next. Much like dominoes creating a chain reaction. The students have spent the last months exploring each of the 6 innovations in-depth. In addition to the PBS series, they’ve spent time really digging into each innovation that led to the next.
@dweissmo really took on this project with her students. The process wasn’t without it’s frustrations (for teacher and students) but the end result was absolutely incredible! Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a better outcome than what I saw today when Deb’s class unveiled their mini museum. Before I get to that, let me lead you through the process of how this project came together.
First, Deb’s class watched each of the How We Got to Now @PBS documentary series. The students took notes (in Evernote, through sketchnotes, etc.) about each innovation. The class would also debrief after each video and talk about what surprised them, encouraged them about the invention process, the key players, and the timeline. @dweissmo is a master at leading these conversations. Her enthusiasm is infectious and the students caught her passion. Steven Johnson also has a way of presenting the unfolding of each innovation in a way that hooks your interests and keeps you marveling and making connections long after the video is over. After watching the documentary series, Deb put each of the six innovations up on her wall and asked students to write their names on a sticky note and choose which innovation that they were most excited to learn more about.
Students chose which innovation they wanted to do a more in-depth study of and would, ultimately, create dominoes based on.
For the dominoes, we snagged a bunch of the flat-rate shipping boxes from USPS. The students painted them different colors according to the innovation they were studying (a different color for each innovation). Next they took all of their notes and research and started creating their “dominoes” with information about that innovation. They quickly realized that there was SO much to say about each innovation, that it didn’t fit on their domino. The kids decided to create websites where they could add a little more in-depth information about the innovation. To make it easier for the museum audience, they connected the websites and webpages they built to QR codes for each domino. You guys, these are 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students!!! I’m so proud of them I could burst. They built their websites using Wix (a wonderful and amazing WYSIWYG editor). The QR codes were built using Google’s URL shortener which also happens to include a QR code. On the back of each domino, the kids affixed their QR codes. Some of the kids also created videos that were included on their website. (If you are interested in seeing these websites, all are linked here.) All of this was done over the course of a few months as the kids continued on their inquiry journey of How We Express Ourselves, and How the World Works.
Then came the full moon. Any teacher will tell you that the full moon does something to children. Perfectly wonderful, reasonable children are suddenly unrecognizable and cannot make a decision or work together to save their lives. This is a real thing! This full moon coincided with class decisions about how to set up their museum. And much chaos ensued. Despite the full moon, the kids were able to come to a decision about how they would set up their museum for the rest of Team Anastasis and families to enjoy. For all of the trouble they had coming to a decision, they did a remarkable job in the end! They created a sort of maze/labyrinth to walk through with dominoes along the journey. They decided to organize the dominoes not by innovation, but instead as a timeline so that you could see the interconnectedness of innovation. They had a station set up with clips from the How We Got to Now PBS series, a station where kids/parents could download a QR code scanner and learn how to use it before going through the museum, the actual domino mini-museum, and a place to reflect on the museum afterward. It was incredible!!
What was truly inspiring was watching the other classes (and parents) journey through the museum. Kids of all ages were SO engaged and impressed with what Team Weissman had put on. They spent time sitting at each domino and learning more about the innovations. They asked questions. They told Team Weissman what a neat website they had built. They connected with each other and learned together. Seriously, I couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario. As the 1st-3rd grade class was leaving, they stopped and asked some of Team Weissman, “could you show us how to do QR codes and websites for our Body Tracings?” This is what learning looks like!
After all their hard work, the kids sat down and reflected on what could have gone better. What they would like to do differently for their next museum. They congratulated each other for a job well done. They talked about how hard the project felt at times and how very proud of themselves they were when they persevered through the hard parts. They made plans for the next opportunity to share it.
And now for our next trick, Team Weissman is creating their own inventions…How We Get to Next! These are so brilliant, I can’t wait to share them!
If you are joining us for the 5sigma Education Conference (and I hope you are!!), you will get a first hand look at the How We Got to Now mini domino museum and hear from the students who created it.