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Wildwood After-School: Workshop Lesson Plans

As part of a Capstone project for my Certificate in Civic Engagement and Public Service, I created a science-oriented workshop at an after-school program. My interest in creating a workshop sparked from my desire to teach in a manner different from what students experience as the norm in daily classroom instruction; I wanted to see firsthand how effective unconventional ways of learning were in practice. The workshop incorporated math and writing activities as well as no-word picture books as lesson openers. After each workshop, I evaluated what held students’ attention and what did not, and how I could better help them think creatively about the connections between the book opener and the science that they were experiencing in the activity. The breakthrough moment occurred when students were engineering and solving a problem during a lesson with their own creative thinking without my needing to lead or supply everything they might want. I learned that what was engaging was not my setting up the conditions for them and letting them play with whatever activity I had set up but rather, it was my providing some materials and their adjusting and devising their own questions and solutions. I entered this experience with the notion that the most elaborate plan would work, but learned in the end that what worked best, what led to the most successful collaboration and problem solving, was having no plan because I had no expectations or directions. Overall, I learned that 1) kids will come up with their own solutions and look to each other for ideas and inspiration when given materials to work with without much direction, 2) you don’t need an elaborate lesson plan to grasp children’s attention – lesson plans can actually constrain rather than promote problem solving, and 3) it is more effective to go into the unknown with no expectations because you are more open to what happens along the way.