What a Day!

A group of us from Alachua County went to Sarasota today to see student engaged learning in action. Picture middle schoolers in groups of four sitting around small tables. Each table had a computer. There was a quiet hum as the kids looked at the science or math concept of the day. They had a question to answer, related vocabulary to learn, an experiment or simulation to do, and a process to follow to arrive at an answer. They worked through the process together or individually depending on the task. Then they talked about how they solved the problem presented.

In one room they took their resting temperature and then did twenty jumping jacks, remeasured their temperatures and calculated changes to answer questions about heat and energy. In another room, they learned about probability by doing repeated ‘rock, paper, scissors’ in pairs and logged results to find patterns. A third room was studying physical and chemical changes in mass by shaking small containers with rocks and a chemical and observing, smelling and drawing changes. They weighed the changes in the rocks.

My favorite question of the day was when, in one group, a student said, “I got the answer, but I do not understand why.” The other group members explained their reasoning. The teacher summarized the different approaches the children had used to solve the problem and explained how she had approached the same problem.

The kids are not only solving some real world problems tied to the state standards, they are both physically and mentally engaged. They have been taught how to ask each other questions. They are totally engaged. The teacher goes around to each group to give a hint if needed. No one was wise cracking etc., they were too busy and interested.

All the worked is logged and tracked using hand held smart calculators synced with a computer, but only somethings are graded. The groups include different ability levels and are strategically formed to be sure they have compatible personalities. At the end of the class, every child and the teacher knew how well he/she had achieved the specific task of the day and where they needed help.

It made you want to go back to school. Public school.

Posted in Achievement, Florida, Public Education.


  1. What a day indeed!!! This experience is uplifting and holds promise for the reform that can happen in our public schools. Our collective efforts and resources can make this happen for all of our students in Florida public schools.
    So glad for your Alachua County field trip and the joy this brings to you and all of us as we march on in support of public education!!!

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