Do you think they are prepared? I asked Jonas when I met him in the staffroom on Wednesday morning. ”Not too sure about that”, was the vague answer. ”We’ll have to wait and see”.
The day had come when it was time for the year nine pupils in our GIGS-project, the ones we call the challenge creators, to do the STEM-challenges of creating windmills and solar energy gadgets with the year six pupils, the challenge masters. We had spent Tuesday afternoon rehearsing and preparing, but everything was definitely not crystal clear. The morning session went really well however, from the challenge creators’ perspective. They managed to do what they wanted to. The challenge masters really mastered their challenges and were able to document what they did. They seemed to have a good time. They learned a couple of things according to themselves.
What we are facing now though is a slight dilemma. When I say ”we” it is Jonas and myself I am talking about. We agreed afterwards that there were things that had been positive. Things like the enthusiasm that the masters and most of the creators showed in the classroom and the distinct proofs of engineering skills that everybody showed. We also agreed that there were things that could be improved, and most of these things were connected with the treatment of the object of learning; energy. Even though I am not a Science teacher it was obvious to me that the presentation of different energy forms and sources could be done in another way and then the object of learning would appear in a more effective way. The most relevant and obvious way would be to make a couple of changes and then teach the same lesson to a new class. There are more year six classes. Simple learning study methodology. Problem is though that the other year six class is the control group and having them doing the challenges would probably skew the research part of the project.
I went home thinking about this and kept on thinking it about during the night when today’s second major happening for the challenge creators took place. Together with the rest of their class mates and their Swedish teacher (me) it was a night at the theater. We all went to see Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. In the very final scene the old house keeper Firs speaks up for the first time. He has been silent on stage throughout the entire play apart from almost unintelligible grunts. He has been visible and someone the others have stumbled on and shouted at and moved about, but has not said anything clearly. When everybody else is stripped down and left without anything and without their beloved cherry garden and manor he says ”They forgot about me. But I suppose that’s the way it is these days”. Firs becomes the elephant in the room, what everybody tries to convince themselves is not relevant anymore. We must not let that happen with the learning in the classroom, and in this case the learning of energy forms and sources.
Today (Thursday) Jonas and I will meet with the challenge creators and discuss what they are happy about and what they would want to improve. Then we will see how they will go about improving it, but in one way or another they must. We must not forget Firs.