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  • Writer's pictureRachel Terlop

Wonders of the World - A Cornerstone

It was about this time two years ago that my former principal made the decision that in order for school to support thoughtful and questioning scholars, we needed to move towards a STEM school model. Being one of the forty lowest performing schools in the city means we have a strong focus on English/Language Arts and Math. By strong focus, I mean that is the only things we teach. So hearing that we were going to incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning into our school was joyous to hear.

It was about this time last year that my current principal approached myself and our glorious STEM teacher and asked us to write curriculum that incorporated STEM into our ELA units. I spent March - August 2017 pouring through units of study for Kindergarten - Fifth Grade with Mr. Ewing and creating projects, student facing documents, and field trip experiences. We created "Cornerstone" projects, or culminating tasks, that would allow students to connect their learning to a STEM project, We had too much fun writing these projects, and creating interactive lessons - and I discovered that I have a passion for designing curriculum. But, I digress.

The end of my Reading Around the World unit came this week, and it was finally time for these kids to build. You see, we have such a tight and rigorous schedule every other day, Cornerstone Weeks are like a breath of air. Everything seems to shut down, slow down, and we just destroy the classroom - in the best way possible.

First, rearrange the classroom so students had ample building space. Rows of vertical tables became one long line of tables with bookshelves in front for ample "spreading out space," as my students call it. Two rugs were moved, my table was relocated, and I even disassembled a shelf. Cornerstone week is nothing to joke about.

After spending weeks studying the continents, and tasting food from different cultures, we completed the unit by observing the natural and man made wonders that are in each of the different continents. The scholars in my room were absolutely tickled to see Petra in Jordan, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and the Pyramids of Giza. However, just seeing something is not enough - It is Cornerstone week; it's time to build!

1. Pick a Wonder - I limited the students to six that we studied and had research to go along with the photo, or gave them the option to do their own research within out time limit.
2. Plan your building process and what materials will be used. With an entire table of supplies, students had to determine if they were going to use plastic building materials, or malleable and perishable items.
3. Build the wonder!
4. Evaluate the process; what went well, where did you need to adjust, what could you do with more time?
5. Write - Share what you built, two facts about it, and explain the construction process.

Timer: Set for 1 hour.

Students: Unleashed.

Successes, failures, laughter, tears, and opportunities to try again and rebuild. Origional designs were scrapped, materials were swapped, and the floor was covered. That hour had it all! However, the end result was proud students who managed their time, and successfully built something that made the past 7 weeks worth their effort in researching!

I love Cornerstone week.

I love designing Cornerstone week.

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