The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it and turn it inside out.

Whats the SPARK in your classroom? How do you ignite children’s learning and curiosity?  

Photo Credit: evelinazvirbule via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: evelinazvirbule via Compfight cc

There are so many X-based learning models. Here are a few:-

that allow for children to take part in a variety of

in-depth investigations of real-world topics worthy of children’s attention and effort.

The ideas behind these X-Based pedagogies are nearly 100 years old. It is not a new concept in education. But it is one that has been remixed throughout the past century.

Most feature some elements of BIE’s 8 Essential Elements of PBL. Most get their names because they use a specific context for learning. If these pedagogies are remixes of each other then I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you decide to call your, er… extended learning experience just depends on how you frame it. The bottom line is the same…they… can powerfully engage and effectively teach students!  

Do we want to teach for a test next week? OR do we want to our students to be creative and critical thinkers who can solve problems and bring about real change?  

My SPARK is giving them life skills which they can use by linking concepts and understandings across a variety of subjects and ideas. This type of education is preparing them for their future. I am aiming to

So what does this SPARK look like in the classroom?

I think I am creating a mash-up of  some of these X-based Learning Models. Challenge, Problem, Project and Inquiry Based Learning (I.B.L.). are all incorporated into the what happens in my classroom (My aim is now to try to add Zombie Based Learning to this mash-up…probably not but imagine that!)

Currently we are inquiring into our Responsibility and the 5R’s Unit of Learning. With the Central idea of What we do affects our environment.

On Friday Grade 1 hosted an Inventor’s Workshop. The provocation (Inquiry Based Learning) for the workshop was the wonderful Caine’s Arcade. The children were reusing/repurposing materials that they brought into school which would normally have been thrown away or recycled (Challenge Based Learning).  The children had freedom to create whatever they wanted to as long as there was purpose behind their design by not throwing something away (Problem Based Learning) . They came up with some wonderful designs/ creations including:

  • A desk tidy for pens
  • A slingshot
  • Marble run
  • A toy tea set
  • A soccer game
  • Stuffed toys
  • A bag

It was a brilliant day with a real buzz around the whole Grade 1 area. Parents came in and helped, Administration and our Maintenance team came and supported the children making connections with their current learning and their previous learning.

Specialist Teachers came to support the learning in the classroom as we collapsed the schedule to allow for deeper more meaningful learning. This allowed specialists to come and support their students in their homeroom. Children did not have to stop every 40 minutes and learn in small boxes. Instead they could use their knowledge and learn across subject areas to create something meaningful and worthwhile using skills that can be used later in life to solve problems, critically and creatively think.

Specialist teachers loved it and it allowed for collaboration across subject areas. One French Teacher told me that “this child has leant more French with me in the past 10 minutes than they will do all year. We need to do more of this. Hands on, practical experiences that will help the in later life.”

A child ( more than one but one sticks in my mind) “This is the best day ever”.

I suppose the whole  idea behind the Unit of Learning could be called Project Based Learning because students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter. At the end of the Unit the children will be expected to persuade Grade 2 to change their habits through a variety of mediums including persuasive letters, videos, a podcast as if it is a radio station, posters etc. These high quality collaborative products can then be shared to a wider audience using our class blogs, Twitter, Vine, education publications and through conversations with other aged children via Skype or Facetime.

What it really comes down to as a teacher is creating that SPARK because it enables them to continually learn, grow, and question the world they live in.

Teachers can do this by exposing students to a wide variety of topics.  Different people find different things interesting—one reason to provide learners with a range of subject matter, in the hope that something will resonate.

That way we can ignite a child’s SPARK. 

What’s the SPARK in your classroom?

6 thoughts on “SPARK

  1. Ooooh. So so good. I love seeing so many people engaged in the laerning in your classroom. I love seeing all the ways you documented it. I love that utter look of concentration from the kids and the parents and all the adults. What is going on in your classroom was a total example of “hard fun”.

    This is amazing. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Thanks Rebekah. It was such a blast…All day long children (and parents!) totally engaged in what they were doing. Designing and building for a real life purpose, applying skills that they had learnt in a previous Unit of Learning and mixing them with what we are currently learning. The collaboration between children and adults was great too. But perhaps the best part for the children was Caine’s Arcade replying to their tweet too. Thanks for your kind comments. Cheers, Joel


  2. OH my gosh!! Your classroom looks insane 🙂 – in a good way! I loved that a student shared “this is the best day ever”, having that time and help to create and just go for it is so rare in the school year.
    I often have this discussion with my teaching partner about learning engagements that are “super fun and the kids will remember” balancing that with what the purpose of the lesson is. In Grade 5 it can be pretty tough because it’s that last year before they’re off to Middle School but we still want to create it.
    In our UOI Cause for Conflict we have some Problem Based Learning in simulations which get the kids talking, connecting and problem-solving to be fully engaged in a ‘conflict’. I don’t know if there is something similar for Grade 1’s but we use the World Vision Trading game which represents the wealth distribution around the world. So awesome, the kids are ALWAYS so passionately connected to this that the discussions afterwards are always very colorful. Here is a blog post I did about it a few years ago:


    1. Thanks for the comments. It was such a great day. My resolution is that we must incorporate more of theses days throughout the year. At the start of next year I want to schedule similar events. Also why not incorporate more of this across the school… we could get grades working together. Then if all grades did this then imagine what the Grade 5’s would be creating?
      I agree these events have to come back to the purpose and the learning- that has to be central to it. I think it is possible to make connections like this especially through concept based teaching and learning.
      Many thanks for your link to your blog. You have so much information on it!! I have bookmarked it so I can come back at a later date.
      Thanks once again, Cheers


  3. Fantastic Joel! It truly is a great model for all schools. Imagine every discipline collaborating and intertwining, integrating, and weaving their curriculum together; providing a truly all-encompassing understanding of the material for students. Not only that but getting the parents involved not only helps spark their children’s interest but also the parent’s interest to create projects of their own at home. Kudos to your admin team for supporting this endeavor and adjusting the teaching schedule to accommodate it.


  4. Hi Julian,
    Thanks for your comments. It was such a great day and the children are the ones who benefit from projects like this. The collaboration, creativity and the learning was brilliant. We did not want the day to end! Ideally I would like to try and put more days like this in place next year. Maybe one for each Unit of Inquiry…. I’ll keep you posted.
    Cheers, Joel


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