The fourth grade students at Solon Intermediate School recently experienced one of these unique learning opportunities. As the Solon’s Teacher Librarian, I collaborated with the fourth grade teachers to create an activity that would engage students in making and connect to the learning happening within their classroom. Their first reading unit was focused on reading intensely to interpret characters. To do this, they used the book, The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo as a mentor text. The activity stemmed from one particular quote from that text. “He made all of his feelings go inside the suitcase; he stuffed them in tight and then sat on the suitcase and locked it shut” (p. 3). The character, Rob, was discussed at length and there were discussions about what they suitcase symbolizes. Students also shared what kinds of feelings or thoughts Rob put in his suitcase. Next, the students transitioned to a making activity that required them to create a model of a suitcase using a wide variety of materials.
The following day, the students were brought back together. This time the students were given some time for self-reflection. They were to use this time to draw or write on small pieces of paper what some of their thoughts or feelings are that they would put in their “suitcase” similar to Rob in The Tiger Rising. When students were finished, they placed these pieces of paper in their model suitcase and everyone sat in a circle around the room. Students were then given the opportunity to share some of the things they had put in their suitcase, although this was not required. The teachers started the discussion by sharing some things in their “suitcase,” and at first, only about five students shared. However, once a few students shared, more and more students started to open up. A sense of trust was built and students felt comfortable sharing some of their biggest worries, fears, and struggles. Tears were shed and relationships were built as students learned about each other. In addition, students developed empathy for one another and started to realize that many of their peers were struggling with some of the same things they were and that they were not alone. This was an incredible experience for everyone involved. This makerspace activity tapped into multiple subjects and multiple skill sets in connected ways. Most importantly, students were given the chance to express themselves in creative ways within the curriculum.
See What Our Student Makers Created
Solon Community School District