Monday, March 28, 2016

Podcast: Harmonized Learning Episode 52

In this episode, we talk about Checkpoint Assignment 1, our new book, Cultivating Genius: The Why and How of Creating a 20% Time Learning Environment (linked here) and our professional development opportunities this summer. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and follow us on Twitter (@dayankee and @melissahellwig4). 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Learning from Students

Every year we are astounded by what the kids learn during 20% Time. They learn and incorporate dozens, if not hundreds, of new ideas, technologies and apps into their projects. This learning is not confined to just their projects or our team. Word gets out and others want to tap into the knowledge bank of the team. One such instance occurred today.

A couple of weeks ago, our amazing FACS teacher, Christy Burton, came up with an idea. She envisioned a way for kids to design and 3D print cookie cutters for a baking unit. She found a design site called Cookie Casters and, after a bit of brainstorming, decided it would work well with her classes. We have a student, Celia, who mastered our 3D printer earlier in the year. It seemed like a natural that Celia would lead the FACS classes in learning how to use Cookie Casters to design cookie cutters. She tinkered with the site and evaluated the work flow to our 3D printer and created a presentation that she would use to teach the FACS classes. 

This morning, we excused Celia from her first three classes so that she could go to the FACS room and teach the kids how to design cookie cutters on the Cookie Casters site and save them for export to our 3D printer. Christy messaged to me about how well Celia was doing with the classes. Indeed, she is a natural. This is just one example of utilizing the talents of our kids to teach other students essential skills. We applaud Christy for coming up with the idea and both Christy and Celia for the execution of this project.

Celia's 20% Time project is at a crucial point. Take a look at her progress here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

So Many Talents

One of our students, Grace, is designing the Cool Band, a device that will help relieve the pain of migraine headaches. She has been researching the cause of migraines and what some possible solutions might be with regard to holistic treatments. She believes that with a mechanism that fits over one's head and exerts pressure on different points of the skull, the pain can be relieved.

This is a very cool idea and she is putting a lot of work into her project. One thing that we discovered along the way is that Grace is a pretty good graphic designer. She came up with an awesome logo for her project and may use it as the logo for her device. This is just another example of students discovering talents that they have. The kids have to do so many different things in order to have a successful project and discovering hidden strengths always happens. Check out Grace's project blog at Here is her logo:


Friday, March 4, 2016

Podcast: Harmonized Learning - Episode 51

In this episode, we talk about the RCET Conference, a teacher in a neighboring district who is implementing 20% Time, and how PBL has permeated our classrooms. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and follow us on Twitter (@dayankee and @melissahellwig4). 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Spotlight: Samantha Alul, Fox School District

When Melissa and I conduct professional development sessions, we often later hear from those teachers who were in attendance. One teacher, Samantha Alul from the Fox School District, wrote us this note after implementing her own 20% Time program in her class.

I attended a presentation you led on your 20% project and wanted to share this with you. Often as teachers we don't get to see the ripple effect of our work, but thanks to your presentation inspiring me to adopt this project, my students are turning into global citizens and, most recently, they are sending two homeless teens to New York with their choir. I am so grateful for your influence. Just wanted you to see the influence you are having on kids you don't even know.

We are always happy to hear from teachers attempting 20% Time and like to spotlight their work. 20% Time is a huge undertaking but the rewards for both teachers and students are immense. Samantha found this out during her own journey. Her kids did some remarkable things that changed how she thinks about education. She wrote to her technology specialist who had arranged the PD session that she attended, telling him of her classroom successes. Here is her story.

Sometimes, the most powerful lessons are not a part of the planned curriculum.

Today was by far my proudest day as a teacher. I watched as 4 of my boys organized a fundraiser to raise money to help homeless teens attend a class trip as a part of a completely self-directed, grade-free project on activism and innovation.

Four twelve year old boys single-handedly planned and executed every single aspect of the fundraiser from proposing it to our our principal for approval (an intimidating task at 12 years old), creating order forms, organizing and recording orders and money from the entire school, calculating profits and making phone calls to place the order (there is no one more nervous than a 12 year old making a professional phone call, btw).

As one of my student's eyes welled up with tears realizing what a powerful impact he and his friends could have while calculating his profits, I realized that THIS is the true goal of education, and THIS is why I teach.

So thankful to be a teacher and have these great kids in my life. John Prezzavento, the 20% project has officially changed my classroom.

We applaud all teachers who attempt to change their classrooms to incorporate more student choice, personalized learning and project/problem-based learning. The benefit to kids is unparallelled.