To provide students and teachers with an experience in a day-long project-based inquiry.
To provide a high degree of choice for students and teachers.
To provide students and teachers with an experience of multi-age learning teams.
Yet this is not an easy feat for a single day on the school-year calendar. Creating a project-based learning
experience can take hours, even weeks to plan - especially for someone who is unfamiliar with the
elements that define and shape these inquiry-based projects. Also, very few teachers in the elementary
school had ever had an experience working with multi-age groups of learners. Over the next few weeks,
we would be asking teachers to:
Decide upon an area of interest or passion.
Develop and refine a driving question, open enough to allow for student choice and inquiry - but
focused enough to ensure understanding and connection.
Adapt their project to a Multi-Age group of learners, either grades K to 2 or grades 3 to 5.
Think about a way for students to share, by the end of their day together, an aspect of their Day
9 experience with the school-wide community.
Throw out their traditional schedule and to create a plan for one day as an open-ended, inquiry-based project.
Many challenges presented themselves. From supporting teachers’ understanding of project-based
learning, to logistical challenges of determining how to schedule snack and recess for our newly formed
Multi-Age learning teams. Determining how to provide student choice while maintaining a balanced multi-age group, was another unique hurdle that caused the team of eight to head back to the drawing board.
But in time, schedules were created, teachers were supported (both in school-wide faculty meetings and
in one-on-one sessions, when requested), and a protocol was created in which each grade level class was
given the opportunity to choose from a selection of the project options available at their grade level (to
ensure balanced ages for each project). The storm was moving in.
As Day 9 approached, feelings of uncertainty, excitement, anxiety, and curiosity were palpable. Fifth grade
teachers wondered aloud if their plans for a group of kindergartens through second graders would hold
up. Others wondered about the materials, space, and resources their students might need as the day
progressed - because a project truly designed with student-led inquiry at the foreground, necessitates a
level of uncertainty. And still others were curious about the flow of the day, because it is not often
students have the opportunity to focus on one project for the entire course of the day.
On April 5th 2013, the time for planning was over. The perfect storm was upon the elementary school.
Over fifty teachers and teaching assistants had designed, created, and refined their projects. They had the
list of students spanning three grade levels who had voiced their interest in their particular project.
Resources and learning spaces had been arranged as best as possible to meet the requirements of each
project (as much of the needs that could be planned for in advance, anyway). And it was time for the
students to arrive.