There were many take-aways from doing our first ever Kid EdCamp that can be simply stated in a list, and I love lists!
1. Students are motivated by voice and choice.
2. Students are able to be self-directed learners as presenters and participants.
3. Students are able to practice and experience the habits of mind: creativity, curiosity, empathy, collaboration, and reflection.
4. Teachers are able to see the power of voice and choice.
5. Teachers are able to see the power of self-directed learning.
6. Teachers are able to see the power of students practicing and experiencing the habits of mind: creativity, curiosity, empathy, collaboration, and reflection!
Last week, we held our first ever Kid EdCamp! It was phenomenal on so many levels and I will do my best to bring it to life for you.
On the first Wednesday of each month, my school has something we call PLUSS Day. We have moved to a 10 Day schedule and the first Wednesday of every month is a zero day in our schedule. In the morning, we have time to collaborate with other teachers and the students come in at 10 am. As a Lower School, we usually try to do cross-grade, and sometimes, cross divisional type activities. A few brilliant teachers, Judy Sandler, Andrew Hanes and Bill Hardy had brought up the idea of doing a Kid EdCamp off and on over the last year, so we took the leap!
3rd and 5th grade teachers said they would ask their students if anyone would want to present at a session. Fourth grade, unfortunately, was on a field trip that day so they would not be able to participate, but more on that later. The other grades agreed that depending on the sessions, they would have their students participate in some.
After explaining what EdCamps were to students, they became very excited. We explained that at an adult EdCamp, no one really presented anything…they shared, but they did not present. At our Kid EdCamp, they could present an idea or teach students how to do something, or they could just have a discussion. Making it developmentally appropriate for PreK through Grade 5 was intimidating for sure at the beginning. Once students wrote their session idea on index cards and we hung them up on a schedule, all of that fear I had just disappeared!
They were amazing! Students’ sessions included: Misunderstood Dogs, Knitting, Pottery, Understanding Pi, Origami, Goldilocks Rap (presented by the Kindergarten class!), Coding, Football Discussion (Route Runners and Wide Receivers), many Rainbow Loom sessions, Upcycling, Cupcake Decorating, Theater, Lacrosse, Soccer, more Football, All About Horses, Stop Motion Photography, Karaoke,and so many more!Teachers took students down to the schedule board and they put post its or sticky notes on sessions they wanted to attend. This idea came from Tim Bedley who ran a Kid EdCamp for his 4th and 5th graders. His blog post, “Kid EdCamp,” was essential in helping us understand what to do and how to possibly do it!
Students became more and more excited as we approached our Wednesday PLUSS Day and of course, it snowed! Our school was closed on Wednesday February 5th! However, my principal, Michelle Holland, was extremely supportive and decided after all of the work and effort the children put into this day, we would have our day on Thursday February 6th. This meant that about 50 fourth graders would now be attending! The fourth grade teachers, Kelly Causey, Jillien Lakatta and Lisa MacGibeny were so incredibly flexible and creative, they came up with a quick plan. Many fourth graders volunteered to do a last minute session and we just added them to the schedule. Other sessions became a little larger, but everyone was able to just go with the flow.
We began the day at 10 am. There would be 25 minute sessions with a five minute travel time between sessions. We had two sessions before lunch and recess, and three afterwards. We did not tell the students about the “law of two feet,” which means participants are allowed to move to a new session if the session they are in is not meeting their needs. We felt that it would not be developmentally appropriate for PreK through Grade 5. In addition, I made a session schedule for special area teachers and administrators so that they could sign up for times to cover rooms. Homeroom teachers were able to float from room to room so that they could see their own students. Basically, I ran from room to room each session making sure everything was running smoothly. Jennifer Robinson, another technology teacher and Assistant Director of Library and Information Services, not only planned and made it possible that MineCraft worked in one of our labs, but she manned the room for the majority of the day! There were so many MineCraft sessions, it would be impossible to notice we need to learn more about this and incorporate it into our teaching. Each lab was crammed full of kids. It was fantastic! Students were so engaged and excited and asking if the sessions could be longer!
The day ended with our version of “Smackdown.” At an EdCamp, Smackdown is a sharing of tech tools and resources that teachers learned about or already knew about that they want to share with their fellow EdCampers. Our Smackdown was a reflection of what went well for the day and what things we could do differently next time. Students and teachers shared the most incredible things! Students shared that they loved it because they got to know other kids with the same passions that they had, one student said they knew what they were going to do for Genius Time (stop motion photography), and another said they were able to make new friends. Students shared that they could empathize with teachers because it was hard to get everyone’s attention sometimes. I found that there was incredible beauty in the learning that occurred from “mistakes” or lack of student preparedness, and the learning that occurred was teacher learning, presenter learning and participant learning! My husband, Andy Hanes, is a technology teacher at our school and shared some of the responses via Twitter.
I will never forget the power of this day. I actually got teary-eyed during our Smackdown! I will admit, this isn't hard to do, I am a "crier," but it truly was moving. If you are thinking about whether your school or a group of grades should do Kid EdCamp, stop thinking, just do it! If you have questions, email me, or others who have tried this. Really, you will not regret it!
Things to Remember for Next Time:
1. Allow each teacher to “cover” one room so that we can all float and see different sessions.
2. Allow some sessions to change after 25 minutes and others to change after 55 minutes.
3. Remember to tell students they cannot attend more than one kind of session. (We had a student in Minecraft all day!)
4. Have two sessions before lunch and two sessions after lunch but each session should have more offerings.
5. Always, always, always have a “Smackdown” session at the end!
6. End the day with an All School DEAR time!
The picture below is a list of writing prompts my students came up with to help with a blog post that reflects their day.
Visit Friends of the Fifth Dimension to see student blog posts about Kid EdCamp 2014 Day!