How do we facilitate experiences that are meaning, memorable, relevant, fun, and student-centered, while still learning standards?

I think this is one of the true challenges in education today.

Words have a way of informing. They can also evolve, evoke, and overwhelm. Words wormhole their way throughout the world of education today. If perception is reality, then it stands to reason why educators do battle in their minds when striving to facilitate the best possible learning experiences for kids, given finite resources and accountability.

Terms like makerspace have made quite the splash in recent years, but the ripple effects may leave some ebbing when they wanted to flow.

Why does that happen?

Recent conversations STEMming from an interesting #EdcampWake session have me wrestling with the many variables that can reroute smooth delivery of instruction and disrupt meaningful learning experiences.

We just want what’s very BEST for kids! Why is that so hard?

When new ideas come about, they have a way of buzzing. As their vibrations increase, definitions can change. For example, what does makerspace mean? Often, it depends who you ask.

I love makerspace aspects like design thinking, hands-on learning, empathy, and doing learning through creation (and not just consuming).

However, as a former, fourteen-year, fifth grade classroom teacher of two end-of-grade tested subjects (math and science), I totally understand why some educators would shy away from activities that directly challenge their finite resources of time; materials; technology; creation space; and storage space.

Which classroom teacher of tested subjects, under the pressures of testing and accountability to prove that effective learning and teaching of specific standards are happening in our spaces (not to mention performance-based bonuses), would take a risk to lose structured time they could have used to earn higher test scores, for kids to have time-consuming, experiential fun during prime instructional time?

With the planning, gathering of resources and materials, and potential mess and chaos–It can be a lot to risk. In fact, for most classroom teachers, makerspace is too much.

The wrestling match continues…

My central argument to movements like makerspace:

Why not BOTH? Why can’t learning be both standards-based and fun? Answers to this question would definitely reveal your educator mindset.

And by the way–Do you see what’s being implied in that question? Implications include:

  • Standards-based learning is NOT fun;
  • Fun learning experiences are NOT standards-based.
  • Hear more about this stereotypical argument here.

I believe that all educators want students to have that mid-flight sensation–the high from purposefully learning about something that matters to them, and learning about it in meaningful ways.

But the days of navigating our journeys on autopilot are done.

In talking with several educator friends, I’m hearing a definite contrast between standards-based learning experiences and learning standards as a result of experiences.

Are standards the launchpad or the touchdown?

Do we begin with what we want students to learn, or do we facilitate experiences–and then hope that backwards planning connects us to standards during our post-flight, runway conversations?

Why not BOTH?