Several of our schools have been built with courtyard spaces. Over the past several years, these have taken on special meaning in our schools not only as open-air spaces to walk through, but as learning spaces. As I moved out of teaching and into my role as an instructional technologist in 2001 with the opening of Goochland High School, it wasn’t long until the courtyard space there started to emerge as a spot for art.
Last year, the outdoor classroom project at Byrd Elementary was one of several neat projects to take place there, including the spot to hang outdoor wall hangings produced by the students of Tom Case. His project became a winning G21 project in our annual Faire.
This year, Randolph Elementary teacher Jennifer Gates has taken on a courtyard project at her school with 3rd graders. I’ve been watching the project unfold from my perch in the courthouse, via Ms. Gates’ blog.
Her students still do what we might call “traditional learning” inside, like this student here practicing for a test.
But as we all know, technology can be used for more than testing! Some of Gates’s students were the actors in this video, promoting their student-centered project around creating a learning space in Randolph’s courtyard.
Learning with hands-on activities such as these that involve community members and support takes extra time and energy. But the emphasis has been, as I see it, on developing students’ skill set to include what we call “21st century skills” of collaboration, communication, and problem solving. The photos seem all to reveal a lot of fun from the viewpoint of the students, too.
Congratulations to Ms. Gates and her students on their progress thus far! Realizing a dream takes patience and conviction, but there’s nothing more rewarding their realizing your goals!