by Director of Teaching and Learning, Balazs Dibuz
If you have heard of Flex Days — either in our summer mailing or from your child — you may be wondering, “What are Flex Days for?” Well, everything. Everything we value at Ancona, that is. Flex Days make possible many things that are difficult in a regular academic schedule, like…
- extending an ongoing project,
- engaging in a design process to create something fun or to solve a real-world challenge,
- exploring interdisciplinary themes,
- organizing exhibitions of learning — like Science Fair or Dia del Espanol
- or getting off campus to visit experts and institutions in the field.
Essentially, Flex Days are just that, FLEXIBLE!
Here’s how Ancona students spent their first Flex Day last Friday:
The 3rd and 4th graders began their “cardboard challenge,” inspired by Caine’s Arcade (www.cainesarcade.com). After brainstorming, sketching or making prototypes of all kinds of arcade-type games–or, if they preferred, buildings or vehicles, or whatever struck their fancy — they set to work constructing their designs with boxes, tubes, and packing materials and whatever other materials they could find. By noon, they had taken over the upstairs hallway gluing, taping and cajoling the pieces into place, and then painting and decorating their creations. And this was only stage one of the design challenge! Next Friday, our next Flex Day, these same designers will evaluate their products–with input from their peers, of course–and consider ways to improve the design and the user experience.
The cardboard challenge is a precursor to numerous design challenges that will take place this year – opportunities for Ancona students to engage in a design process that integrates and further develops problem-solving, creative and critical thinking, and collaboration skills. It’s amazing what a kid can make from the things lying around the basement or garage. We recommend you do try this at home.
The 5th and 6th graders took advantage of Flex Day to accomplish a number of important goals. In the morning, advisories reflected on the “Guiding Principles of a Peaceful School Community” and worked on behavior norms for their community, and then indulged in some cooking or other fun group activity. In the afternoon, 5th graders chose from four kinds of independent work in two back-to-back sessions, including Scratch programming, getting to know Google Drive, Reading, and Sketchbook drawing, while the 6th graders (and two 5th graders who really wanted to sing) had their first full chorus rehearsal of the year.
Flex Day was a perfect opportunity for the 7th and 8th graders to embark on their City Quest. Using public transportation, each advisory traveled to a different ethnic neighborhood in Chicago, visited places of historical significance, learned about local organizations that serve that particular community and sampled the local cuisine. This year, students journeyed to Andersonville, Bucktown, and Lincoln Park. To prepare, students researched the history of the neighborhood and designed their route to and from their destination, learning to navigate the city on their own. Such experiences help to solidify our students’ capacity to organize and implement solutions to real-life problems and give them confidence for moving about their city. Flex Days facilitate meaningful learning opportunities that transcend the classroom.
Preprimary – 2nd Grades
Not everyone did something out of the ordinary on this first Flex Day. Our youngest students need time to establish routines and grow into their learning environments –especially if they are new to the classroom. And yet, teachers at these levels also included a few special features that introduced new activities and ideas to their students. In Room 110, for example, students began to develop the concept of a science notebook, engaged in some scientific drawing and later had a visit from Christiane to make Palomas de Paz. The Flex Day functioned primarily as another “Foundation Day” for our early childhood program, giving children the confidence to grow and take risks throughout the year. This will be useful next week, when the Preprimary and 1st and 2nd grade classes plan to do some fall gardening outside. Let’s hope for good weather.