Fessenden Visits High Tech High in San Diego

Representatives from the Fessenden School were lucky enough to visit High Tech High in San Diego for their “Winter Residency Program.” HTH is a charter school that has immersed itself in Project Based Learning and has earned the credentials of one of the countries best when it comes to using PBL in the classroom. Looking at the pictures below you will see numerous projects adorning the hallways and classrooms throughout the school. Projects are “curated” and only when they are of “museum quality” can they be put on display. In order to achieve such beautiful projects, the process is rigorous and intense. Many of the projects are interdisciplinary with humanities teachers teaming up with physics teachers, or calculus teachers teaming up with art teachers and the like, to come with worthwhile projects that the students find both engaging and fun. When projects are completed, they are exhibited, and not always at the school.

Many of these projects connect students with real-world experts in a variety of fields, and they often find their completed work displayed in art galleries, colleges, community parks, and many other places outside HTH’s walls. These connections bring students to current workplaces so they can get the most up to date information, research, and analysis for their project. Whether the project is a typical classroom project or a major multidisciplinary project, the goal is the same: achieve deeper learning. Students, individually or in groups, work on numerous iterations of each project and document the entire process. They learn about learning, and they learn about how they learn as each project moves forward.

We were able to ask questions to a student panel who repeatedly talked about how much they learned, not only about a specific topic, but about themselves and the confidence they gained to take on any problem, big or small. As teachers, we all walked away in awe and full of inspiration, but even better, with more training and understanding about project based learning and how it can be achieved in any classroom.

Curt’s Photos from High Tech High

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EdTech and PBL in 6th Grade Language Arts

Sixth graders were challenged to explore the problem “How can a picture tell a story?” Boys took photographs on their orientation trip to Crane Beach, and selected one from the group pool they felt embodied their experience that day.  Boys were encouraged to play artistically with the photos using Pixlr, and wrote a descriptive essay to recount the story their photo told.  View their online compilation book here.

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Fessy EdTech Round Up

Ninth grade English students played with GoAnimate, creating animated screenplays based on the concept of conflict and resolution.

Upper School Spanish students designed graphic novels via Pixton.

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Upper School English students used Pixton to storyboard a scene from Oedipus Rex.

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Food Web Collaboration in Fifth Grade (Flipped) Science

Fifth grade Science students tackled a food web activity today that was multi-layered. It was designed to first check student understanding of food webs and the concept of interconnectedness, which students explored at home as part of their flipped classroom, foster collaboration and communication among students, and create an environment of interconnectedness on a small scale that represents the larger web being discussed in class.

After watching a brief clip from School of Rock for inspiration, in which Jack Black teaches his students about the genres of rock and roll using a elaborate web he’d drawn on the chalkboard, each boy spent 15 minutes researching an animal of his choice, specifically its place in its food chain. Boys had to determine and diagram two items this animal eats and two animals that eat it. Then the boys congregated at the back of the classroom to attempt to piece together their mini-webs into a larger web.

It was most interesting to observe how the boys collaborated and communicated in this setting. During the 10 minute large group work, Mr. Banister facilitated the discussion, assessed the boys’ science understanding, and used several teachable moments to share his observations on the quality of communication and collaboration occurring. These videos and photos capture the conversations and results in two classes.

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RSS Classes Imagine and Animate “Hammurabi vs. Mr. Lew” Conversations

The RSS classes were challenged to compare and contrast the Middle School Code of Conduct with Hammurabi’s Code, best known for its “eye for an eye” philosophy. After comparing the codes in a Venn Diagram, boys wrote a dialogue between Mr. Lewellyn and Hammurabi himself, which aimed to address themes like what makes a good law? and what makes an effective ruler? Once written, boys animated these conversations through GoAnimate. Boys reviewed peer animations using a Google form, with the option of editing their own work if reviews shed light on areas to change.

To view assignment instructions, click here.

To view peer review sheet, click here.

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Music & Media: Art Inspired Compositions

The Music and Media classes were given a choice of 21 pieces of art, ranging from paintings to instillations to sculpture. Using GarageBand, the boys composed a piece of music. Through numerous student-led critiques, they were able to create compositions that reflected elements of the art and contained at least one contrasting section.

Below you can see the art the boys could choose from and their accompanying tracks below the art.

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Featured App: GarageBand for iPad

GarageBand for iPad is a great way to introduce music composition to a large class while using iPads. Our Music & Media class uses GarageBand for a wide array of projects.

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