authentic learning, being a teacher, creativity, Innovation Day, Student-centered

4th Grade do Innovation Day

Once again my students astounded me.  Given the opportunity for a full day to just create and inovate, they showed me that if we truly trust our students, they will be able to manage their time, create an exciting product, and have fun while doing it.  On Monday we did our very first Innovation Day, an idea being integrated in other schools around the globe but originating from companies who call it FedEx Day.

The idea is simple: the students get to pick a project to work on for a full day and it has to be done within that day.  the requirements were minimal:  They have to learn something, they have to produce something, and they have to be able to present it the following day.  We decided as a class too that it would be best if no more than 2 students worked together.

Two weeks prior to the day students were given a brainstorming sheet, supplied by Josh Stumpenhorst and modified for 4th grade.  Immediately the excitement grew.  “A whole day where we get to decide?  That’s not what you do in school!”  Some students knew right away what they wanted to study such as Aidan and Erik who were keen to build and research a Celtic castle due to their heritage.  Other students changed their minds almost overcome with the idea that they could do anything they wanted to.  After some conversation even the most excited were able to choose.  They had to outline their process more detailed as the day grew closer and we spoke of how they would proceed Monday morning, finally,  they were ready.

Monday morning I was as excited as my students: would they be able to pull it off? Watching them walking super fast down the hallway told me they were as anxious to get started as I was.  Indeed, right after announcements we jumped into it.  The room quickly erupted in noise and paper, which can be seen right away in our video.  I stepped out of the way and let them work.  As the teacher, the hardest bit of this day was to truly get out of their way!  Instead of me solving problems, they were solving their own, using all of the resources that we have discussed throughout the year.  It was incredible to watch them work together and other own.  Throughout the day students would show me their progress, parents would pop in as well as other teachers.  I live tweeted the event and even some videos.  The kids were so into it they asked to skip recess and lunch.  As the clock wound down and students started mellowing out; I knew that this was a must do event!

So what did we learn, well, students created:

  • A huge cardboard model of Big Ben
  • A painting of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Scrapbooks from kindergarten to 4th grade
  • Snowflakes and their patterns
  • A Celtic Fortress
  • A board Game called Advance
  • A dream house out of Lego’
  • A model of the Washington Monument
  • A model of the The Pentagon
  • A model of the The Capitol
  • A T-Rex
  • A commercial for Fleels (flats that can be converted into high heels)
  • A model of D-Day
  • A model of Apollo 11
  • A clay model of Big Ben
  • Glogsters on favorite basketball players
  • A paper zoo
  • And many research papers

And what did I learn?

  • That staying out of the way is a great thing.
  • That trusting your students to create will result in magical things happening.
  • That students will use the resources they are taught to use.
  • That innovation and creativity is alive and thriving, the problem solving that occurred in my room that day was just incredible.
  • And that some students do need help when picking a project to ensure it is enough for the whole day, although that was remedied by adding research components to it.

As the year comes to a close and these incredible 4th graders look more and more like 5th graders, I am thankful that we had this opportunity to learn together.  The students showed me how much they are capable of, how much learning can transform them, and how school should indeed be fun.

My students made a video trying to convince other teachers to do Innovation Day, I think they say it best.

8 thoughts on “4th Grade do Innovation Day”

  1. A perfect example of doing more by doing less as a teacher. You are an example for everyone. Thabks for the inspiration, and for walking the talk.

  2. This is awesome! I don't have my kids all day, so I created something called a 60/60 day. Same basic idea, but the get 60 minutes to research, and 60 seconds to present. My kids are older, so it is fun to watch them deal with the pressure of the 60 minutes, and the pressure of having to be so precise with the 60 seconds.

  3. Paul, I love your idea. Could you tell me more please because it would be fun to integrate something like this maybe every couple of months in my classroom!Royan, I am only following the examples of other great teachers, you included!

  4. I really enjoyed watching the videos and reading your post. Innovation day should be a must and I have already started planning how I could use this idea with my class next year.Following your blog is very inspiring

  5. I love, love, love this! The video is fantastic. You can really see how engaged your students are and how excited they are about their learning. I love Paul's idea about 60/60. I teach middle years in a high school setting. I am going to try this in June.Thanks for sharing this wonderful day with us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s