Dena Glynn shares her experience trying a Kids EdCamp with her class.
We are working on a trimester-long research project. Each student chose her/his own topic. I wanted to see how much they knew about their subjects already AND see what they didn’t know (via other student’s questions). Kid EdCamp seemed to be such a cool way to showcase the learning and reveal the holes in their research.
I had been playing up the idea of a Kid EdCamp with my class since I first read about it on TimBedley.com but didn’t give the students much info. I told the kids, “There are some people who think kids can’t do this.” The night before, I assigned them a homework project to create a short (under 2-minute) movie, a collage, or a ShowMe about their topic. I thought these would make good introductions for Kid EdCamp presentations.
The Day of the EdCamp
I made the matrix schedule board (out of butcher paper) but left off the locations of the sessions. The sessions took place in six locations, four in my room and one in the adjoining library. Only 30 of my 35 kids were at school, or else I would’ve needed two library locations. We held five 10-minute rotations.
Students who wished to lead a session put their names and topics on large sticky notes. I selected students randomly to place their stickies in the matrix. I explained to the class that a session might include only one person or more (I didn’t set a limit because I wanted to see how it played out.) I expressed my desire to have every session with at least one attendee. I also explained that it is more important to choose a topic one is curious about, know a lot about, or want to learn more about rather than being with one’s best friends. Then, all students wrote their names on mini post-its and placed those in the boxes they wanted to visit. One tricky part was getting the students to NOT place their name sticky on a session time slot in which they were also presenting. The kids created new blog posts on our class blog entitled Kid’s EdCamp. Each student had to type the times, places and locations of the sessions they would attend. This was done to save time during the EdCamp. I didn’t offer the option of spontaneously changing sessions. I didn’t even know if this whole thing would work. Perhaps I will allow students to vote with two feet at future EdCamps.
I instructed the session leaders to take charge of their group. begin the conversation, and keep the discussion focused on the topic. Other students could ask questions and share experiences. The participants had to take notes during the sessions on their blog. We used this same blog post as a reflection at the conclusion of the EdCamp. When we started, I was so excited! I made that very clear to the kids. I told them I was most excited about the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.
How did it go?
It was AH-MAZE-ING!! All students took ownership. One of my resource kiddos, who barely scrapes by, led a talk on candy and was basically as knowledgeable and well versed as Willy Wonka. The Dragon Fruit session got interesting when one person asked what they grow on. This led to Googling images of the plant and being grossed out at the sight. The parkour group hadn’t seen the YouTube video about the parkour dog, so I had fun showing them that.
What I learned
I learned by letting kids’ passions surface, it is miraculous. Everyone was able to be an “expert.” I had three sessions on”dogs” and they learned from each other. If we could tap into that intrinsic passion and align it, somehow, with other subjects, the potential is astronomical. I thought the 10-minute time frame was perfect. I started ringing the bell to rotate about a minute before.
The kids behaved ridiculously well. Visitors stopped by at different intervals and commented on the high level of engagement. I walked the course and some of the groups needed reminders to take notes but no incredible goofing off was noted. At the conclusion of one of the talks, the speaker shook hands with the audience. One thing I wanted was the leaders to be “higher” (either standing up or on a stool if they were on the floor) than than rest of the group. That way I could instantly see my speakers. The other thing was that the groups naturally were between 1-6 people, without my interference. I think a group larger than 8 is too big and more easily distracted.
This was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. I told them I think we’ll do something similar at the end of our research project but invite other classes to be a part of it. Maybe we could use our multi-purpose room and have different stations.
Guest blogger Dena Glynn is a 4th/5th grade teacher at Tierra Bonita Elementary School in Poway, California.