The ARCTIC Zone’s first six-week theme was “Community.” All class and passion project work was related to that theme, and it was all due for completion when the six weeks came to a close on Friday, November 4th. The final week was one of stress and panic for many students who had not managed their time very wisely throughout the six weeks. There were even some tears as the realization set in that the final countdown was on. At the end of the day that Friday, a handful of students had not met their goals and had not completed their expected work for the theme.
What happens when they don’t finish and a new theme starts the following Monday? Too bad, so sad! Monday = “reset” button!
I can hear it now, “So you just don’t have them finish the work? Don’t you worry they will take advantage of that in the future if they know they don’t actually have to complete it?”
We are only just over one week into our second six-week theme of “Overcoming Adversity” right now, but I can tell you with confidence, I am not worried one bit! They learned a lot about the project process during our first theme of “Community,” but I would argue they learned even more about themselves throughout the process!
After hitting the “reset” button last Monday, everyone started over! New theme, new partners, new topics, new deadlines, new projects! A focus of ours in the ARCTIC Zone this year is to use the power of reflection to guide progress and success in this program that can be carried over into progress and success in life. Upon switching to a brand new theme last week, we used our weekly one-on-one advisory conferences to reflect on the entire “Community” theme. We talked about what went well and what did not go well. Were deadlines met or not? Was your project everything you wanted and hoped for it to be or not? Did you collaborate well with your partner or not?
In most cases, the latter was the common response for all questions – the “or not” part. This, of course, led to some great conversations about areas for improvement. I cannot stress enough how powerful the “reset” button was for our students last week.
So often, in a traditional education program, when a student gets behind, he is behind for the remainder of the year. When is there ever an opportunity to fully start over completely? Think about how defeating that must feel for a student who just can’t ever seem to catch up. Nobody wants to fail. It is not in our nature to want that. It is, however, easy to tell yourself you are not good enough or can’t catch up when you’re constantly struggling.
We actually saw physical differences in students on Monday morning, like a weight had been literally lifted off of their shoulders. And the conversations were extremely powerful – conversations about finding strategies to manage time better, to meet deadlines, to collaborate better with partners, to pick better topics or to narrow them in a different way, to improve the quality of their project products, to practice presentations more beforehand in order to feel better-prepared.
Keep in mind – these are eleven-year-old kids! Powerful stuff!
Now, just over a week into our new theme, we are seeing major differences in how students are organizing their time and how they plan to take this project to the next level with their research and their depth of learning. And – the excitement and energy are off the charts!
They are in charge. They call the shots. They see the need for improvement. They are making the necessary changes.
We just provided them with the opportunity to “reset.”