July 06, 2012

Good-bye from Imagination Island

island cupcakes for our feast

What a memorable year it has been on Imagination Island, not just for me but also for my little islanders. There were some notable experiences to end our story together properly. First of all, we recaptured King Fluffy! (see my earlier post: islanders and explorers) As you might recall King Fluffy watched over us from his hammock all year until he was taken by the Explorers who came to visit us. 

So we met the Explorer group at a nearby park to settle our dispute and we played "capture the flag" except it was "capture King Fluffy". My students were much more emotionally engaged in this activity and the idea of our King being really taken from us than I had realized. They were relentless in winning 3 straight rounds in a row - in a "game" which at times had a palpable and tense reality to it! 

In the end they didn't want to even settle on friendship by trading some of our island treasure for Fluffy. They just wanted Fluffy!

Secondly, the students were very excited to finish and show off their own individual 3D models of their own islands. They had been working so hard on their island projects all year and these models were a culmination of their research. In my year end survey, a majority of students recounted that their island project was the most important and "proud" moment of their entire year. What is very interesting, but not surprising to me, is that they invested so much in these projects, spending much of their "free time" in class, even though they knew that this island project was not for marks! Here are a few samples:

What I believe my students caught on to is that the product itself is not what is truly valuable or requires the "mark"; rather it is the process of their investigation, talking with other students, and using their imaginations to create something new, that is rewarding in itself and has a lasting effect.  This sentiment is echoed in a recent article on student engagement in the Learn: BC Education magazine, written by three secondary students
"Making education an engaging and enjoyable process will result in students learning worthwhile life capacities such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, inquisitiveness and innovation. Acquiring these skills, not just the ability to score well on tests, should be the goals of a good education."

Finally, we celebrated the end of our year together and "getting off the island" in style with a great feast and some fun. 

Yes it is time to leave Imagination Island. Many of my students wrote cards to me this year mentioning how much they enjoyed their experience, how fun it was, and how sad they were to leave. Here are a few quotes to leave you with that shows how my students' thinking has been influenced through the use of this "imaginative island theme" this year: 

Q: How do you think your imagination helps you learn?

A: "It helps me in everything because I could think or act beyond anything normal. It helps me to make something beyond anyone else. I can non-stop making ideas. I learn stuff that I could never think about."

A: "I think my Imagination helps me learn by thinking about unuasly things that could help me learn. Like if we are learning about something and we do something unuasly that involves our Imagination it might help me remember it because it will stick in my head. Also when I use my Imagination it is fun and exciting and more funner than just looking in textbooks and writing stuff out."

A: "It helps you learn by doing more things you don't have to do Becuase without an imagination you are a blank mind with nothing. With a imagination you can do anything, without it noting is done."

A: "I think it helps me learn because if theres a subject you don't like you could use your Imagination and make it fun. So it helps me learn and have fun. Like when we read a book and made if seem real that was amazing so we used our Imagination."

A: "I think it helps me because when you're writing or drawing you can imagine an unusual plot or idea. I also think it helps when you're reading you can imagine what it's like in the book. That way it's easier to connect to what it's like being that character or being in that place."

Q: How will you continue to use your imagination next year in school?

A: " I will just keep on thinking of way that I use it now so I will go beyond what I do now like what Mr. Sclater said are Imagination will get stronger and stronger while I grow up and I want it to."

A: "I will continue to use my imagination next year by giving exampels and telling the teacher about something I found out about the subject so the class can learn it to."

A: "If we have to write, draw or do a project. I will try to do something unsual and imaginative idea that no one else has done. I will also add extra info in a story or project to express my feelings."

...and now everyone is asking me, 

"So what are you going to do next year?" 

I don't know the answer to that yet, I will need to take some time "off" to think about it; but I know that teaching to the imagination is something I must do and continue with no matter what the curriculum topic, theme, or lesson I choose or create. This year has given me enough proof of that! Placing an emphasis and priority on the development of the imagination is critically important for student engagement in learning (as you might see in my blog title). I believe that the curriculum needs to be presented in a fun, interdisciplinary, open-ended, process oriented, and democratic way - meaning that students need to be have freedom to take risks and be involved in conversations about what and how they are learning, and thus they will continue to grow in the use of their imaginations and individual expression of their understanding.

Good-bye from Imagination Island and thank you to all the students, teachers and parents who have helped to make this year such a success! I will never forget my days on the "island".