Finding peer educators in your school building that empower you, hear you, and support your in your professional interests are a rare and beautiful gem. From the first moment that I clicked with Jamie Ewing, that is what he has been to me - a wild force of positive energy and support. As the STEM Specialist in my school, Jamie has helped me brain storm, tear apart lessons, and build in STEM learning for my students on weekly basis. He goes above and beyond in collaboration, and I just feel overwhelming gratitude for him.
However, this entry is not just a glowing review of Mr. Ewing as a human. This is about our Wild GooseChase around Seattle, and how it came to be. This story starts way back in March of 2017.
For some background information, the school I am currently teaching in is labeled as a "40/40 school," meaning that it is one of the 40 lowest performing schools in the district, and is aiming to grow 40 points in test scores. Removing ourselves from the "40/40 label" is a challenging goal that our school is committed to achieving. The structure of the school day requires 120 minutes for Literacy, and 90 minutes for Math instruction - leaving little time for other academic subjects. However, our school is attempting to integrate STEM because everyone knows that hands-on learning is not only awesome, it is also great for building resilient and curious learners.
Our principal, being the supportive human she is, provided Jamie and I with the opportunity to build an STEM curriculum that is integrated into our pre-existing literacy curriculum. So, to summarize, we began in March 2017 and spent our summer in the National Gallery of Art basement, drinking excessive amounts of coffee and writing curriculum for the scholars in our school. We built kindergarten through fifth grade units of study that included culminating projects, field trips, and student-facing documents. Then, we had the opportunity to present it to the staff and help make STEM integration come to life in our school. We introduced our integrated curriculum by creating a digital scavenger hunt around our school's neighborhood. This scavenger hunt was built using an app called GooseChase - and immediately, we were hooked.
Fast-forward to October when Mr. Ewing is building STEM night for our school, using GooseChase of course, and alerted me to a conference in Seattle, Washington. The Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE), known for their Leadership, Innovation, and Learning, was planning their conference and looking for presenters. Why not go to Seattle to present on how GooseChase scavenger hunts can be used in the educational setting?
From October to February, it was been nothing but GooseChase mania in my classroom. After the success with the staff scavenger hunt and the field trip, GooseChase came to the kid level. After a unit of study on plants, GooseChase was used for our culminating activity - a field trip to the United States Botanic Gardens. With the help of outstanding chaperones, we were able to lead groups of three scholars through the museum, searching out plants, drawing their unique attributes, and interviewing museum employees. Not only was the field trip extremely intentional, and student led, my scholars were engaged the entire time. If anyone has had experience leading 20+ students, walking, through Washington, D.C. then you understand the pure exhaustion that can overcome young children. Exhaustion with GooseChase? No way! We were skipping the whole way home while talking about plants! Talk about a teacher win!
Riding the success of the field trip, I brought GooseChase into the classroom at the Guided Reading table. In my inclusion classroom, I have a range of student reading ability. Looking for a way to push my kiddos reading two or three years above grade level is hard. As second graders, they are beginning to develop the maturity required for independent study and book circles, but that takes a lot of self-control and motivation. While we are developing those independent skills, GooseChase has been a magical tool to push their interaction with text, and allow me to gauge understanding, while also collecting data. Everyone wins!
Coming to Seattle to present at the NCCE conference is such an honor. I am thrilled to have found a tool that motivates my students to read, respond, and interact with text in a meaningful way. Being able to talk about my scholars and their success in the classroom is one of my favorite things to do, and I appreciate NCCE saving space for me to do so.
...but since I am here, time for some coffee!