Several weeks ago, a couple of members from the Digital Transformation Team (a subset of the Digital and Multimedia Learning Department) had the opportunity to visit Floyd Middle School Science teacher Daniel Harbert and his colleagues Oneisha Young and Anthony Holder as they took their students on an unusual field trip.
This project was the brainchild of Mr. Harbert and Dr. Dana Giles who were brainstorming different, yet powerfully relevant ways to present the concepts of electricity, its currents, and circuits into the then upcoming unit. Once the spark of inspiration ignited, they immediately reached out to the construction crew at Hardee’s who were appreciative of being invited to support student learning.
Wearing comfortable shoes, the students exited the classroom and then the building in an orderly fashion, followed their teachers to the crosswalk, and conducted class in the Hardee’s restaurant across the street. The building was still under construction at the time, and the students were being given the opportunity to see the relevance of circuits, wiring, and thorough planning as it
related to their unit on electricity.
Once the project came to an end, we asked Mr. Harbert to provide us with a reflection on the process. Below are his thoughts:
Reflection on Neighborhood Redevelopment PBL
Simply put, our Neighborhood Redevelopment PBL was an amazing experience for me as a teacher.
I asked one student what they thought about what he thought about learning using this method. He was extremely enthusiastic in his response saying it was awesome because he got to see the concepts in his community and then learn about it and apply it! I had to ask him if it was an honest answer, because if I were going to script an answer, that is how it would have sounded. Though there were other students who complained about it being too much work, but throughout the project I witnessed those same students working through problems and frustration and even explaining concepts to their peers sometimes in a way more clearly and thoroughly than I would have had time to do in the middle of class.
There were multiple times throughout this unit when I found myself with a huge smile on my face and chill bumps on my arms because I was seeing what felt like authentic learning and knowledge transferring into meaning! There were other times when I felt like we were failing to drive home the standards and I asked myself if I could/should do something else to be a more effective facilitator. One of these times is when the English Language Arts teachers teamed up with us for the writing portion of the PBL and on day one students told them they had not learned this yet. After confronting certain students on this, it was evident they just were not used to having subjects blend so closely and were thrown off.
From my perspective I think this was an amazing learning experience students will remember for a long time. Taking the students through this experience (from relatively no knowledge to “training them as electricians” through the performance task to the final product of constructing a model home using the content and writing about the concepts in ELA) embodies everything I think we should be doing as teachers and a direction I think we should be taking education. Expanding beyond the classroom walls to the surrounding world.
My absolute favorite part of the whole unit was the end when a pair of students who were on the same team were upset we were moving on to the next unit on waves. They actually asked me if they could keep learning about electricity. This is the first time I have had a student if they could continue learning about the content I was helping them learn. I was thrown off and answered with, “No, we have to move on to the next unit so you are prepared for the milestones.” I hated my answer before I even finished it. It didn’t feel right and it kept me up at night trying to figure out how I could still allow these students who had clearly developed a passion for building and electricity to continue but gear it towards light and sound. After stewing over the disdain for my answer and collaborating with some of my PLN friends I came up with a plan. I have since attained permission from parents, administration and then the students themselves; they are currently building and wiring a speaker with a light component. They will then test out how waves interact with the surrounding environment and other waves using their product. They will be working on this through the rest of the year and maybe turn their passion into a purpose that will change the path they decide to take later on in life.
Floyd Middle School
We are so grateful to Mr. Daniel Harbert, Ms. Oneisha Young, and Mr. Anthony Holder for allowing us to tag along. Most importantly, we would like to extend our thanks to Dr. Teresa Hargrett, Principal of Floyd Middle School, for her support and for our open invitation to come visit and see more of the magic happening within her school’s walls.