The “Innovation Museum” at Wyandot ECS earlier this month put on full display the power of personalized learning. Melissa Riehle’s second-graders were handed the question,”How can we innovate to improve the world around us?” and they answered it with calm down bracelets, hover phones and flying cars, just to name a few.
“One of my favorite aspects of this project was students taking ownership and being empowered to guide what our work looked like,” said Riehle, whose first challenge to her students was to brainstorm questions about innovation that they wanted to be able to answer.
In the truest form of student-led, project-based learning, she then empowered her students to make critical decisions about how to explore their questions and ultimately, shape the project’s final outcomes.
The inquiry-based social studies lesson led off with an exercise in past innovations. Students interviewed guests from the community to understand the evolution of different innovations over the years. They went on to research a historical figure of their choosing and report on how their innovation changed the world.
Second-grader Ava Henschen-Nowak, for example, was proud to be one of only two students in the class who chose to dress up like her figure and present a live speech for the “past” section of the class’s Innovation Museum. Her classmates, however, chose to show what they learned through posters, bottle buddies, Google slide presentations and even a visit from Benjamin Franklin (pictured right).
“As we learned together, being able to watch students make connections and answer their own questions was amazing and so rewarding for them,” Riehle said.
Every student was also involved in innovating for the present within their own school community and for the future, too. Students used what they learned from various classroom visitors, including a group of INCubatoredu students from Lakota East who provided guidance on the innovation process and how to write a pitch.
Together, they landed on two present-day innovations to actually see through as a class: calm down bracelets to aid classmates in emotional distress and cafeteria signage to improve the flow of the lunch line (pictured right). Both ideas required students to create a plan, collaborate with building administrators and then promote their innovations to the Wyandot community through videos, morning announcement scripts and flyers, for example.
Second-grader Elijah Reed was most excited to show off his future innovation. “Innovation means to invent something new or take something that’s been invented and make it better,” he explained before sharing his invention of the hover car to improve upon the current day car. He pitched his idea, referencing the burdens of traffic congestion and road maintenance with present day cars.
Ava’s process to develop a flying carpet led her to perhaps one of the most important takeaways of all. “It doesn’t have to work right away,” she said. “You just have to keep trying until it does.”
"Because of all the student agency, I'm confident my students engaged in real world learning and will always remember this project," Riehle said.
- personalized learning
- real world learning