We at iSchool are excited to share the highlights of our 2018 summer learning! Knowing that the summer slide is real for most children, we create opportunities for students to apply what they learned during the school year and make sense of it through real life projects. In addition to sharpening their cognitive skills, we taught lessons for students to learn invaluable social and emotional life skills through hands-on STEM related activities, making them happier and more effective learners.
This summer, we placed a heavy emphasis on empathy as a life skill, as well as its compatriots, respect and teamwork. For every fun, innovative activity we did together with the children, we also worked in a lesson about these and other life skills. And, together with the help of our wizards, passionate teachers and volunteers, we were able to send off all our scientists, engineers, and inventors with improved views of both the world and themselves. We began every session speaking about life skills – collecting examples, discussing as a group, and choosing the most important. We then used the life skills of choice to construct real-world strategies for interacting with each other while working both competitively and cooperatively. We also helped the children improve their learning and understanding with daily self-reflection and frequent discussions. Using these strategies, there were many breakthroughs in both physical progress and social and emotional understanding. Finally, we utilized outdoor education whenever possible, taking frequent “brain breaks,” and discussing/testing ideas outside whenever possible.
Amazing Race Around the World
Our first summer session was The Amazing Race Around the World with our partners from Alexandria Parks and Recreation. Together, we learned about different cultures, the elements that make them up, and the characteristics that set them apart. Everyone was happy to enjoy the beautiful weather, eating interesting new foods with friends, and activities ranging from international fashion shows to roller coasters to saying “Hello” in different languages! The camp ended with a public presentation where groups of students unveiled their micronation that they designed together as one nation during the week. Students developed their intelligence in their agreed-upon life skills – empathy and respect. They also learned self-control and self-regulation strategies such as yoga and breathing. Then, on the final day, the empathetic world citizens confidently unveiled the countries they built, presenting and listening with empathy and respect. We couldn’t be more proud of them!
Links:Introduction Day Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Presentation Day!
After concluding The Amazing Race Around the World, we began our second journey – Robotics Adventures, hosted in Falls Church City Community Center. During this session, the children put on their engineering hats, and began learning the key concepts of robotics, integrated with their chosen life skills of empathy and teamwork. In addition to these concepts, everyone also took to heart lessons about growth mindsets, collaboration, and communication while building and developing robots. We’d like to thank our robotics expert Neel, and give a hat-tip to LEGO Mindstorms, both of which helped provide a top-notch learning environment for the children. In the end, we had a student showcase where everyone could present their robotics projects, with a stunning turnout! It was amazing to see the heartwarming excitement every student showed for what they’d learned.
Links:Introduction Day Day 3 Day 4 Presentation Day!
Our Digital Art camp allowed students the opportunity to learn digital graphic design using the Krita software. Our life skills of choice were again empathy and teamwork. Here, however, we tested placing emphasis on different 21st century skills and traits every day, with excellent results! On day two, we examined respect and identity. Day three featured fixed vs. growth mindsets, and day four featured collaboration, communication, and control. Then, on day five, we brought everything full circle, back to empathy as everyone presented their creations. In the end, the session was very effective in teaching empathy, just as it was in helping students collaborate and be creative in new, innovative ways! We will certainly be using this approach again.
Links:Introduction Day Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Presentation Day!
After the Digital Art camp, it was time for the two-week Game Design session in Reston Town Center, where our High Tech Innovation Lab for Youth is set to be housed later this year. We began by discussing empathy at length, as well as the ideas of teamwork and cooperation. We spoke about different game design principles and positions. Students came up with interesting revelations about the importance of working as a team to get projects done. After that, we were off to the races, designing board games with 3D printed pieces, 2D platforming games, and coded games of the students’ own designing that they put together themselves. At the end, we held a showcase for every single one of their creations, with the board games becoming favorites for all ages and genders and bringing families and friends together. What an awesome time!
Links:Introduction Day Week 1, Day 2 Week 2, Day 3 Presentation Day
Concurrent with the Game Design camp was the Innovation Lab, another two-week program. During this session, students came up with feasible real-world ideas for inventions that would help their communities. To that end, we focused heavily on human-centric design, as well as empathy for a central life skill. In addition, we taught the importance of having a growth mindset as the children developed their new inventions. By integrating emphasis on emphatic uses of technology with opportunities for the development of that technology, we wrapped our character lessons and technological lessons into a single, highly effective package. Children also had plenty of fun using physics, gravity, and materials science to build creations! The highlight was their confident presentation of their ideas and invention prototypes in front of the audience of several dozen adults and children. It is always amazing to see them shine and support each other! Definitely one of our most significant successes.
Links:Days 1-3 Building & Coding a Robot Science of Flight Wind Tunnel