Thursday, March 17, 2011

Let Kids Rule the School...We did just that! By Shirley

This week I realized that sometimes things just seem to fall into place and are meant to happen. This was the case with a new project that we tried in middle school this week, called Imagination Day.  The first thoughts of something new began to emerge on Twitter last Wednesday, after I read a tweet and then a great blog post by Josh Stumpenhorst @stumpteacher. This post was all about the very successful Innovation Day that his school had just experienced and where students became teachers for the day.  It sounded a lot like what we believe is important at PDS and what education should be all about…passion, creativity, flexibility and student led.

Our plan was initiated after I emailed our middle school head George Swain and our head of school, Josie Holford suggesting that we do something similar in our middle school. They were both excited and enthusiastic and so we brought the idea to our middle school faculty the next day, Thursday, during our division meeting. The next D Day - Intensive Study Day, was Tuesday and our next window of opportunity. Could we plan and organize something so big in a few days? By 5pm we had great ideas and the plans were set. The next step was to introduce Imagination Day to our students. George did just that at our assembly on Friday morning.

There was a buzz going around the Chapman Room, Cafeteria and classrooms as students talked about their passions and whether they wanted to teach, attend workshops or do both. Next step was filling out a Google form to tell us what students wanted to do. We had twenty-one offers of great workshops from a number of students from grades 6th through 8th grade.   

Here are the offerings…
                                                           Session 1                                         Session 2

Building Birdhouses
Successful Revolution
Acting Improv.
Juggling with Devil Sticks
Media Center
Frame by Frame Animation
Baking Brownies
Making Tacos
Candle Making
Speed Writing a Short Story
Sign Language
Math Magic
Rise and Fall of Rome
Speaking Chinese
World War II
Basketball Skills
Soccer Skills
Baseball Skills/Running
Lower School
Teaching in Lower School
Music Room

Meetings were set up so that the “teachers” knew the length of the workshops and what they should plan for. They then filled out planning sheets. Lastly, the sign up Google form went out to the rest of the middle school on Monday morning.  Everyone was happy with their choices and we were all set to go.

Tuesday arrived, and we the faculty were a little nervous. Had we pulled this off successfully or would it be a disaster? We divided up so we could oversee three different workshops in case there were any problems. There were NONE. We loaded up on cameras and Flip cams and off we went into the classrooms. Boy were we surprised! Every kid was engaged, focused and having a great time and learning so much. Student teachers were amazing and had planned absolutely fantastic lessons. 

Here is the first video of our great day...

At the end of the day, we created another Google form so that everyone could reflect on all aspects of the day. Everyone in middle school (teachers and students) wanted to do it again and soon.

Here are some quotes from some of our students…

“I’ve never left school so tired.”
"I learned that teaching is fun and that I like Tacos."
"I was surprised at how well the class went."
"I learned that teaching is really hard."
"Learn from other people."
"I think this could be done any place, any time."
"It's a great learning experience. Not only are we learning from other kids but we are learning about other kids."
"I learned how to make candles and that lime is supposed to go on Tacos."
"School should not only be about academics. I say let the students have fun and learn something new."

Funnily enough, this article from The New York Times turned up about the same time as we were planning our Imagination Day. Let Kids Rule the School. So let's pass the word and involve more schools in this kind of day.

What more is there to say? Empowered students become creative, passionate learners. There is no doubt in my mind.


  1. Shirley - what a thrill this day was - all around. I'm so glad you brought it to us and I'm still amazed by how quickly we were able to bring that project from concept to reality. It's a perfect illustration to me of how a tech-savvy group of teachers can share and modify creative ideas across the boundaries of time and space. Twitter and Google docs helped us tremendously. Keep spreading the good word!

  2. Dear Talking The Tech Walk,

    I wanted to congratulate Shirley and Laura for opening up a great new blog. Your post on Imagination Day was especially good though. Imagination Day was a really fun day and all the kids were good teachers and students. The classes offered were really good choices and I want to thank the Poughkeepsie Day Staff for putting on a great time! Yours truly, Zander

  3. Hi Shirley,
    I really liked your post on our Imagination day. I think you really explained what we did. It was cool to see all the planning that went Into Imagination day because we only participated in the out come of your great planning. Imagination day was Extremely fun I hope we can do it again.

    from Kate :D

  4. Imagination Day by Shirley: Hi Shirley,
    I like how you explained the beginning process of Imagination Day and the final outcome. I was not here on Imagination Day, so to have a video for people who weren’t there to see is awesome. I wish I was there and I wish I could have taught Indian classical dance.
    - Charlie

  5. Hi Shirley,
    I really liked your post, it was a lot to read but I really liked it. I just wanted to say that I really like the Imagination day I really hope we do it again. It was a lot fun learning from other kids. I also really like how I got to teach soccer. It was also fun because we got to see a video at the end of all the classes. I really liked how the teachers weren't involved in it and how only the kids got to teach the classes they wanted to. It was a lot of fun!!

  6. Hi Shirley,
    I really loved your post about Imagination Day! I completely agree with everything you say. I had a lot of fun on Imagination day and thought it was cool to see that everything actually worked out when students became the teachers. I think it was incredible that the faculty was able to put such a big thing together in so little time!
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  7. Hi to all my 6th grade students:
    Thank you for reading my blog post and making such great comments. It was a truly wonderful day and I hope we can schedule more...