Today was our second day back after the long weekend, and we continued doing hardware with the 7th and 8th grade classes and moved onto Scratch in the 4th grade. In the 8th grade class in the morning there are only seven of them, so we each had someone to walk through taking apart both the XO computers top and bottom. It is also 8th grade spirit week, so all the 8th graders were in their pajamas and crazy hair today. Although they were in their pajamas, they worked really well and screwed in and out screws, understood the directions, and took apart and put back together the XO laptops and some even moved on to taking apart the tablets or moving on to working on Etoys. After the 8th grade class we had our long break of the day in which Sam, Linda, Ryan, and I walked to Mongoose Junction to eat lunch and buy some souvenirs. We ate at The Sun Dog Café and between the four of us shared two chicken quesadillas and chips and salsa. We also all got our own delicious smoothie. During lunch it started pouring rain and we didn’t think we would make it back to school in time for the 4th grade class, but we made it just in time. Today in the 4th grade we switched from Etoys to scratch. Sarah taught them on the board how to make their maze game, and after we all helped around the room to make sure they finish and understand how to do it. All of the kids that I had were really excited about Scratch and loved making their icon move throughout their maze, but some of Sarah’s kids did not have the same reactions. Overall, Scratch was a good program to move onto in the 4th grade and I am excited to work with the kids on it for the next two days. After the 4th grade we had a break until the 7th grade class. In the 7th grade class we did the same as the 8th grade and took apart and put back together the XO computers. Unfortunately, four girls skipped class and not everyone had the same kids they worked with before. Despite the skipping, everyone else seemed to work really well with the hardware. Overall today was a good day of teaching and I can’t believe we only have two more left! This trip has been really fun and rewarding at the same time, and it is bittersweet that it is almost over. Although I don’t want to leave the kids and the beach, I can’t wait to get home to my own bed, hot shower, and bug free, wifi filled house.
Yesterday was a great learning day. We taught the eighth, seventh, and fourth grade today, and everything went pretty much as planned. We had the eighth graders take apart and put back together the computers. When we walked into the fourth grade, there were a lot of boys looking like they were about to throw up, so we asked one of them what was wrong and they said that their principal made them do 150 jumping jacks because they didn’t sing happy birthday to someone. Then she told them if they didn’t sing again she would make them run laps around the field. It made for a tough class. We then taught the fourth graders how to use Scratch, which I think they really enjoyed. We did the same thing with the seventh graders as we did with the eighth graders. Tomorrow is our last day working with some of the groups which make all of us really sad because we have become really attached to all the kids. Really sad to leave the kids, but really excited to go home and take a warm shower.
Today is Wednesday. We are nearing the end of our trip, and everyone is happy, energetic, and feeling fulfilled. The girls are doing a great job of keeping the JESS students engaged in the variety of activities we’ve selected to teach. Today’s groups of 7th and 8th graders did the XO take-apart and put-back-together activity, and after two days of this, the CSG students by now are pros! This was an activity that they didn’t particularly excel at when we did it at school earlier in the year, but supporting the younger students proved not only to be easy, it was motivating and helped them to improve their own skills with reading technical instructions and working with tools. It is interesting to me how different students respond to this activity. Some LOVE it. Some think it’s a waste of time. Still, presenting the variety of coding and hardware is good exposure and helps to ensure that everyone gets to do something they like.
What’s great about the way we are teaching this year is that at any given moment you might see one small group working on Scratch, one small group working on Etoys, one small group working on XO’s and one small group working on the tablet PC’s that I brought for exploring the insides of a more traditional laptop. By Friday, you might even see another group working online with the Hour of Code activities. The girls sense what activities the JESS kids prefer, and are perfectly comfortable moving from what might be an unsuccessful activity to a different one that is more desirable for their small group of students. They are adaptable and flexible. They intuitively understand that an engaged student is a happy student, so they work to accommodate the needs of their group. This is the first year that we have been SO independent in our teaching. Normally we try to keep everyone on the same activity or skill. We’d normally start with a short demonstration of a specific thing we wanted them to do. This year, we’ve decided to let everyone work at their own pace more, and have gotten to the point where the students show up and immediately get to work on whatever their current project is.
This different teaching philosophy has spilled into the 4th grade class, which is normally taught in a large group with everyone doing mostly the same thing. At the beginning of the trip, Sam took a group of students who last year were the disruptive back row boys (and had to repeat the 4th grade because of behavior issues) and has been working with them on Scratch while the rest of the class worked in Etoys. This year, that group comprises the shining stars of the class, totally engaged and totally focused! It’s almost like they are different kids! And this is something that is only possible because we decided to individualize learning.
With Sam’s success in Scratch, the group decided to teach Scratch to the rest of the 4th graders during these last three days. Today was the first day of the new program, and it was a huge success except for one student who was really invested in the “Whack-a-Mole” game she’d created in Etoys. What did Sarah do? Gracefully volunteered that it would be no problem at all for her to support the one girl in Etoys while the rest of her small group works in Scratch! Wow! Talk about flexibility and adaptability. She not only saw the problem, she jumped to a solution without hesitation. It’s not only Sarah and Sam. They are ALL doing things like that every day and it is truly impressive to witness. To say that I’m proud of them would somehow imply that I had something to do with it. What I’m proud of is being part of a school like CSG where the students learn this stuff on their own and show their true colors when they are put into different situations like this one. Parents, YOU should be proud of your daughters!
On a different note, today was cloudy all day, and the mild 78 degree temperature (down from the high-80’s) was a nice relief. It seemed that afternoon naps were in order for many of the teens. I chose to forego my afternoon swim for a simple sit on the beach with my book. What a treat.
Tonight I think they have plans to make some headway on their friendship bracelets. The group is very chatty at dinner, and it is fun to be part of their banter and laughter.
Signing off for now!