Targets – (1) Student Centered Learning. Students will engage in personalized learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem-solving and creative learning opportunities. (2) Leadership in a Student-Centered Learning Environment. FWSU will foster development of teacher and student leaders who provide opportunities for local and global student-centered learning.
Action Steps – (1) Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem-solving and creativity for students and staff. (2) Redefine high-performance in a student-centered, collaborative, technologically rich learning environment. (3) Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate and serve within the school and community. (4) Develop learning habits, communication and problem-solving skills necessary for collaborative learning and leadership.
Indicators of Success – (1) Teachers embrace the role of coach, facilitator and co-learner in a student-centered learning environment. (2) Student voice will have the power to impact the perception of others.
Fifth and sixth grade students at the Fletcher Elementary School celebrated the cultures of ten countries from around the world at their much anticipated Culture Fair on March 25th.
Initiated by fifth and sixth grade teacher Tracey Godin, the Culture Fair represented the culmination of six weeks of research and preparation during which groups of two to four students worked collaboratively to investigate the history, geography, people, government, languages, economy, religion and holidays/festivals of a country that they randomly selected. Prior to their intensive study of that country, all students spent time learning about various types of government from around the globe. The classes enacted simulations of various governmental structures in an effort to experience the organization first hand from multiple perspectives.
As students prepared their Culture Fair presentations, they worked in part with Library/Media specialist Emily DiGiulio, who supported them with conducting research, including scrutinizing the reliability and validity of informational sources found online. Each student presentation was required to include a digital presentation as well as a tri-fold display that boasted a bibliography of resources used and narrative descriptions of the multiple cultural aspects of the country, a map and flag. Many displays also included food, clothing and other artifacts.
According to Godin, the goal was for students to learn about both the material and non-material aspects of various cultures. Non-material items included elements of language, dance, behavior and music, for example, while material aspects were represented by items such as art and architecture that could be touched.
“The goal was for students to understand similarities and differences in cultures,” Godin said. “The world, though small, is also huge. We want the students to know about what is out there beyond our culture and be sensitive and comfortable with other people and cultures.”
Godin said the 5/6 teaching team is hoping to develop the Culture Fair concept into a two-year cycle, with sixth graders adding an element of genealogy and ancestry next year. This year’s students have written essays on their experience that will fuel reflection and guide changes to next year’s structure.
Besides learning about cultures, Godin said that she was excited to see leadership skills emerge in students as they compiled their projects.
“In addition to opening up the world this project also helps students develop management skills and budget their time as part of a large project,” Godin said.
“It was great to learn more about different cultures and also to work on teamwork,” fifth grader Sirena Sawyer, who studied Iran, said. “I definitely learned more about the Iranian culture and other cultures. It’s good to know about the world around you, not just what’s going on in your personal bubble. It made me respect how much we have here. Now I realize how much the U.S. is a small place in a big world. You have to accept differences.”
The Culture Fair was well-attended by students from throughout the school, as well as families and members of the community. Students were required to present their projects to a minimum of eight adults during the Culture Fair and gather feedback on their work for reflection.
“I learned a lot from the Culture Fair,” sixth grader Jonah Czeck said. “You really need to work together. If you don’t, it will really fall apart. I learned how important it is to be responsible, to communicate and remember deadlines.”
The students’ work expectations aligned with Common Core State Standards for writing, along with technology, research and collaboration standards.
“Now I not only know about the United States. I’m not only thinking about our little country and myself but I’m caring about what happens elsewhere in the world,” fifth grader Christina Ashley said. “Everybody has their differences You have to accept other cultures because we all have different values and ways we do things. You just accept the differences. They are not right or wrong. Plus, it was nice to teach our parents something at the Culture Fair.”