I WOULDN'T GIVE UP 20% TIME FOR ANYTHING. EXCEPT 40% TIME.
Today's evidence would be a great support for this. During today's lesson, I was able to work with students to:
- Develop a Twitter account, @wanna_B_fit and have students tweet out about issues that teenagers are dealing with and how to help them lead a healthier lifestyle. Such an incredible idea for kids, considering that most fitness gurus and nutritionists are dealing with adults and the sick. All too often, our middle and high school students are left behind when addressing the issue of nutrition. You want a good example? Look at their school lunch. Ask them about their eating habits? I'm really hoping that this turns into something that they can take to another level.
- Create a Tumblr account for students looking to get into the band at their school. These students came together and realized that, when they were in 6th grade, the band teacher handed them a sheet of paper and asked them to select an instrument. Wouldn't it be nice to have a website to visit that has kid-friendly language with explanations of how to choose the best instrument for you? If it was up to me, I would've chosen the baritone because it sounds like a bear (and bears are awesome).
- Build a website that is dedicated to bringing awareness to the life of a NICU nurse. The students in this group have already met with a NICU nurse (my beautiful wife volunteered to come in and brag about the super awesomeness of her job) and done the research necessary to bring in some sort of excitement to a rewarding profession. They're building a site with links, pictures, content, all in a language that is easy and appropriate for the level of students that they are targeting. Most sites about these career fields are directed at high school seniors or current college students. These students are focused on making something that is very complex into something much easier to get interested in.
There were so many positive stories from today's lesson. I was able to learn about marine biology, perfecting my jump shot, the difference between a landscape architect and residential architect, and much more. 20% time has evolved into this sense of genius hour because I'm floating around from group to group and learning whatever it is they are putting together for their project. While I may never know about the life on Mars, there's a group yearning to tell me more about it. Quite honestly, it's some pretty legit info that they're coming up with!
The final word on this is a bit of a realization of the way that 20% time can possibly affect the education of our students. Today is career day on our campus. Some students get excited about going around to three different presenters that they have signed up to listen to, stoked about learning something new from an expert in their field. The overwhelming majority of my students find this day as more of a chore than anything. After all, they've Skyped or met with experts in their field in a small group setting. They've asked questions, interacted, and gotten to know their expert on a personal level. Career day has become school, something that we have to go to, instead of something to get excited about. I'm OK with that. It means the 20% project mean more to the students than I originally hoped for.
If you are running (or thinking about running) 20% time in your classroom, the biggest recommendation that I can offer is to bring in experts to talk to your students about their projects. My guess is that one of your Facebook friends, a colleague, or a relative will know an expert (or someone who does) that can address your students' questions regarding their 20% time. Use your network to provide these kids with the connections that really matter. My kids were shocked to find out that I knew people who weren't teachers. It goes all the way back to the idea that teachers sleep in their rooms, don't go to the bathroom, and love grading homework. This has been, hands down, the best use of instructional minutes.