Now I jump over to an 8th grade Science Lab– a beehive of activity over here. Working in groups, moving around the room, often standing at their tables rather than sitting, enthusiastically exclaiming their observations, they are entirely engaged by the project at hand. I ask a student what the project is, and explains they are creating, in large ziplocks, the “perfect snack.” Boxes of yummy looking Captain Crunch, M&M’s, Reese’s Puffs, Cheez-its, and Nut stand on tables all across the lab; students are measuring out weights on pocket scales to come up with the right proportions and to arrive at a tasty snack that has between 350 and 400 calories, at least 6 grams of protein, and at least two grams of fiber. To calculate the necessary ratio of snacks which in combination will generate the perfect “healthy” snack, they are using calculators and running equations with sharpened pencils.
They are allowed to eat as they measure, probably partially accounting for all the energy in this room at 12:15– never underestimate the significance of continuing to fuel student learning and activity. This is certainly an activity that they can tap into personally– few things are more deliciously sensuous to an 8th grader than snack foods, and everyone has an opinion about which snacks are best. That is a formula for relevance: topics that appeal to all senses, (these snacks come in shiny boxes, smell great, crunch, and look to this hungry observer like they taste great) and that are easy to opine and argue about!
I ask the teacher for the source of this fine lesson; she tells me she invented it entirely herself. Nice. At class-time completion, the teacher does a debrief. First question: what surprised you as you went about this exercise? Great question; she waits for answers.