BY HOPE CAITLIN WETTER, STORYTELLER/WRITER
TJS’ 6th graders showed off their creativity with a recent project on Central American and Caribbean countries. The assignment gave students the opportunity to work collaboratively, practice research skills, learn project-management skills, and find their own inspiration.
With a key part of The Joy School’s mission being the preparation of students to return to traditional classroom settings (“mainstreaming”), TJS teachers include social and executive functioning components into their academic curriculum. Struggles with executive functioning skills, which are required to plan and achieve goals, is one of the most prevalent reasons middle school-aged students come to The Joy School. Executive functioning skills include task initiation, critical thinking, multi-tasking, and problem solving, which were all required of the 6th graders to successfully complete this project.
“Our biggest goal with this assignment was having them learn how to organize a multi-step project into manageable parts and create a timeline to hold themselves accountable,” said middle school Learning Specialist, Krista Ledman.
“We also wanted them to learn how to complete individual pieces of a group project at a high quality, as well as work with different personalities,” she continued. “Working with a partner is an important part of how we prepare students to move on to high school.”
Given the opportunity to execute their projects through various mediums, students were inspired to complete their projects using a wide range of written and visual vehicles. They created commercials, plays, book covers, news articles, murals, timelines, maps, trading cards, PowerPoints, songs, and more! “Giving the students the option of choosing their products (how they wanted to present their information) was a way to engage their creativity and interest,” said Mrs. Ledman. “Students were very excited when given this choice, and I heard things like, ‘You mean we get to do…!’ and ‘This is so much fun!’. When students are prescribed a specific product, they may or may not be interested. When given choices, students get to take ownership.”
“Our favorite part of the project was creating a mural,” said one 6th grader. “We took a lot of inspiration from Costa Rican nature and animals, and we researched Costa Rican art.”
We love giving our students the freedom to be creative and authentic in their learning – as we say, where there is learning, there is joy!
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