Reflections from National Writing Project, day three

I spent almost all of my day with the NWP Makes! Session, in which NWP teamed up with MAKE Magazine to think about hands-on learning and the informational writing that can be partnered with artistic discovery. We spent much of the morning “doing” — working at tables on arts activities that included sock puppets, bottle cap jewerly, LED bracelets and more. I led the table on Stopmotion Animation, where we created a dance party video with characters created by the participants.

Then, each table had to design a “mock up” website of how they would teach someone else how to do their activity. This sparked a lot of interesting discussions, as you might imagine. We then toured the room, to see and make comments on what other groups were creating, and the informational text they were composing.
Here is what my group created:
NWP Makes 014

Here are the mock-up sites:

As we ended, we were asked to reflect on the experiences of the day as we sought to consider the possibilities of what we did for the classroom and for our Writing Project sites.  Here’s what I wrote:

What has me thinking, and what still resonates from last year’s Digital Is Conference, is how engaging these kinds of hands-on, collaborative projects can be for creators of any age. However, for the most part, we as a society have mostly driven arts and crafts – ie, Makes – from many of our schools due to the pressures of budgets, standardized curriculums and standardized testing. As a result, many of these kinds of creative endeavors fall to after-school programs (Girl and Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, private companies, etc.) or electives, and are not necessarily integrated right in the classroom instruction as much as they used to be. Perhaps making the connection of “creating” with “composing” more visible is a way to start to change that tide.

On a side note, my state (Massachusetts) recently passed a law that mandates documentation of creativity in our schools. That sounds harsh, but it is designed by some state legislators to show that while mandated testing is not going away, schools should not be drill-and-killing the learning spirit out of every child. The development of a Creativity Index would not doubt open up the doors for activities and projects like this, in which the experts teach the non-experts, when then turn around to become experts themselves.

Peace (in the making),
Kevin

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