The day before spring break in my elementary school (40 years ago) equated to extra recess, movies, and killing time. Not at Forest Hills. At Forest Hills, students were busy teaching and earning “street cred.” Yes, I said that right, students were teaching. They were teaching other students and staff in a Student Led Innovation Conference. The conference felt like an adult conference complete with two keynotes and a host of sessions from which to choose. Here are some of the sessions:
- Coding with Finch Robots
- Videography Process
- Tricks and Tips for Animoto and Google Slides
- How to Turn Your Slideshow Into a Movie
- Ctrl Your Fun (cute title)
- Cool Tips You Might Not Know About Google Drive
- Take a Virtual Reality Field Trip with Google Cardboard
- Make a Monster MOVE
- Stop Motion
- Snap Circuits
- Sphero Driving
- Keyboard Shortcuts
- Gaming for Good
- Animator Inc.
- Coding with Python
- Magic Music
- How to Fly a Drone
Students beamed with pride, kneeling down to help fellow students, navigating the technology, and imparting their knowledge. Today was their day not just to show what they know, but to show what they enjoy. Many of the topics students covered were difficult. I’ve developed software for over 20 years and don’t know how to code in Python.
The Student-Led Conference was the brainchild of Wilson Elementary. Last year, Bob Buck, the principal, almost off-handedly said they were planning a Student-Led “Google” Conference. I immediately fell in love with the idea. In true Bob Buck style, he rallied a great team to pull it off. Students received presentation training, learned how to think through their resource needs, and received some “coaching” from their media specialist, Angie Garber. Bob secured two keynotes because he wanted students and staff to have a memorable and more importantly, valuable, day. I remember him telling me, “Well, what are students usually doing before spring break? Either leaving early or watching movies.” He wanted more for his students.
This year, the remaining elementary buildings joined in the fun and hosted their own version of the conference. Each building managed it in their own way, some watching the keynotes and others filled the day with student-led sessions.
The day was personalized, fueled by passion, filled with laughter, and LEARNING. There were bumps in the road, but students handled it. I watched students effectively fix (or respectfully dismiss) the issues. What may have sent me over the edge wasn’t even a blip on the students’ radar.
Guess what? The office was silent – free from referrals despite the lack of bells and formal structure.
Students lights were shining brightly today at Forest Hills Elementary Buildings! What a great start to spring break!