I find the recent interest in assisting our students to develop “grit” and a “growth mindset” very perplexing. Is it because of the Common Core Standards and the struggles that many students are facing that some are giving up? Have all those years of giving Johnny a gold star for effort and Jill the same gold star for excellence backfired on us? One day we are teaching that reading opens up a world of imagination and creativity, and the next we are bombarding our students with close reading, analysis, and textual evidence. One day twenty plus two didn’t involve subtracting ten from thirty, standing on your head, and explaining the meaning of the Gettysburg Address in Pig Latin.
Years ago in our agrarian society, our forefathers and subsequent pioneers learned that giving up meant the difference between food on the table and starvation. But today the sense of urgency is gone. The belief that one needs to be responsible for his or her actions, that most things are worth waiting for, and that hard work begets success has been left at the wayside. Society now to glorifies the outcome (“Check out my new iPhone!”) while ignoring the process (Steve Jobs had been tinkering with this technology years before we even knew we wanted it).
I’m so glad that my children attended nursery school and preschool. If they hadn’t, they would have missed out on visiting the local farm to plant seeds, watching chicks hatch in their classroom incubator, and reading a book for fun. Learning took time, but it was enjoyable and meaningful.
Instead of merely discussing the concepts of “grit” and a “growth mindset” to our students, we need to provide them with safe and nurturing environments where they have the opportunity to fail. And to learn from their mistakes. Learning is a process, and each step brings us closer to our goal. Sometimes we don’t even reach our original goal, but it is how we have changed and developed along the way that is the true essence of learning.
For a true testimony to children's perseverance, check out this link about some crazy ways students have to travel to pursue their education: http://buzzstopp.com/2015/07/11/20-craziest-ways-kids-risk-their-lives-to-get-to-school/. These photos bring new meaning to the old saying "back in my day."
My husband says that I have an addiction. I am beginning to agree with him! Mike came to the MakerFaire in DC last month with my "Partner in SLIME" Gina, and her daughter Hannah. He was there to make balloon car racers, water bottle confetti poppers, duct tape flower pens, and (my favorite!) soda can jewelry. He couldn't believe how popular our table was. And we were mostly using recycled materials!
Well, just recently Mike posted this YouTube video link on my Facebook page. Now I'm REALLY hooked! I take the tabs off of soda cans to use for jewelry. Then I use a can opener to take the top off, leaving a smooth edge. So amazing and simple. I think Mike has created a monster.
So, what am I doing this summer? Gathering recycled materials that I can use in my library makerspace and for our upcoming SLIME (Students of Long Island Maker Expo). Even my 6 and 5 year old sons are saving their water bottles from their summer camp snack. What are the things that I collect? Here are some:
While I was still at the ISTE conference in Philly, I took some downtime in the hotel to cruise through the Craigslist "Free" postings. When I returned home I was able to snag three boxes (about 300!) samples of picture frame corners. Just the corners. And none of them match. I have a variety of styles and colors to choose from. What will my students create with them? I have no idea, but I had to have them! Sure you can find the perfect craft on Pinterest or in a magazine article and then search for the materials. But I won't have to find 300 picture frame corners when I need them because, yes, I will need them.
A few months ago, I asked the manager at Home Depot for a box of paint stirrers. They went from my cart, to the already packed trunk of my SUV, to the library workroom of my middle school library. Today, I found this in the June/July 2015 issue of Make: magazine. Just perfect! Check out other comics at http://www.howtoons.com.
Remember as you enjoy spending time with friends and family at your barbeque, as you wait in line for two hours to ride that new roller coaster at the amusement park, and as you spend a romantic weekend at a BnB and antiquing, you just may come across someone else's trash that can become your treasure.
For more inspiration, check out Michelle Hlubinka's article for Make entitled "The Hunt for Junk": http://makezine.com/2013/08/22/the-hunt-for-junk/
Kristina A. Holzweiss
Ed Tech School Librarian