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Lower School News & Stories

Making T.I.M.E. for a New Lower School Initiative
Posted 07/09/2015 08:00AM

Fail often, fail fast, and let your imagination run wild. That’s the basic idea behind “Making T.I.M.E.,” a new course at the Lower School that allows fifth graders to engage in a series of related tinkering activities using design, making, testing, and troubleshooting skills while exploring and evolving solutions to challenging problems. 

Playing on the idea that students and faculty need to “make time” for Tinkering, Innovating, Making, Exploring and Experimenting, the “Making T.I.M.E.” name also is indicative of the Lower School’s emphasis on hands-on learning, in which mistakes can (and should!) be made so that students can learn from these errors. 

“We’re trying to create a culture where students don’t say, ‘I’m stuck’ and then look for someone to fix the problem for them,” explains Melissa Carver, a Lower School health and physical education teacher who is one of three seasoned educators who are piloting the “Making T.I.M.E.” program. “We want them to be able to fix it themselves, or look to a partner or their small group for help before coming to one of the teachers.”

Lower School STEAM Integrator Laurie Bartels agrees. “This class is more about the process than the end project, and it’s sometimes hard for the students to understand that. But our hope is that by gently guiding and facilitating, the students will learn to problem solve on their own.”  

John Mueser, the third “Making T.I.M.E.” teacher and another Lower School STEAM Integrator, says he has seen a marked change in the fifth graders this year as a result of this program. “They now feel comfortable taking risks and learning from their mistakes. They know how to better cope with frustration.” 

The projects the students worked on this year had an undeniable “cool factor,” which helped motivate the students. Among the projects: using sewn circuits to decorate t-shirts that light up; coding with Scratch programming; making Scribble Bots; creating anatomical models of the brain and other body parts using paper circuits and Makey Makey circuit boards; using the Dash and Dot robots to simulate how the brain works; programming brain simulations using iPad Minis and the Blockly programming app to show neurons firing; and building balloon-powered and solar-powered cars to study force, motion, and energy.

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2015 edition of QUAD, Riverdale's alumni/parent magazine.

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