Here's my evidence:
- Last week I heard 1st graders (6-7 year olds) talking about "design flaws" in their science class. Yes, they used the language and knew exactly what it meant.
- I've also seen 1st graders take action to successfully organize a fundraiser selling handmade bracelets for a cause they believed in.
- After participating in a whole-class simulation, 2nd graders went home and talked to their families about the struggles of poverty and their responsibility to help in sustainable ways.
- 4th graders have helped me create brand new whole-class simulations. Once, they got so excited about their suggested solutions after reading a short story that we decided to take on roles from the story of farmers and fishermen. We then created a village council and task forces to come up with viable solutions. The council heard all the ideas and made a decision that they thought was best for everyone.
- Those same 4th graders also changed our entire classroom into a "media company" where they decided which jobs we needed, how to make decisions, how our workplace should be set up, and how to check the quality of their work. I acted the part of demanding customer and they ran the show.
- After seeing them repeatedly get fired up about the recess soccer rules they didn't agree with, I asked a group of 9-10 year olds what they were going to do about it. It turns out that they figured out who was in charge of those rules (our Vice Principal), wrote a letter, and set up a meeting to discuss the rules. What happened as a result? The students were involved in creating a compromise that they were much happier about.
What do these all have in common? Students (yes, even young ones) drove the learning. What else? They were brilliant. Most importantly- the teacher did not have to do all the heavy lifting in planning the learning. By carefully designing lessons to provoke thinking and then encouraging students to follow through by finding answers to their questions, the students learn more and teachers prep less. Win-win.
There are so many more examples of kids simply being awesome when we trust them. Have you seen kids exceed your expectations? Share your experiences here in the comments!