This article was first published in the Spring issue of Journeys Magazine.
Question. Investigate. Create. Reflect.
This is the inquiry process our middle school students followed during TRi Time in November and December last year. Teachers also experienced this process in their training, and many mastered the process last March. For teachers, TRi Time covers many of the skills that we teach in our classes. TRi Time, however, allows for a more independent range of choices, from graphic design to historical research, to physical activity.
It is thrilling to watch and assist students as they develop a wide range of life-skills. They learn to be independent in choosing an area of focus, to pitch their idea, to make tweaks to their proposal, to find their own materials, and to conduct research. They also learn to collaborate with others, to reflect on their inquiry process, to face failure and move past it, to embrace personal growth, and to share their learning with others.
Not only do students come up with their ideas to investigate, but they also have to solve their problems when they hit a roadblock. For many teachers, watching and assisting students face a challenge and overcome it is the most impressive growth we see. A student’s ability to develop resilience when they face a roadblock and learn to adapt and move past it is an important life-skill.
Donna Volpitta, a co-author of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting, argues that resilience has a much broader meaning nowadays. It doesn’t just mean living in poverty or facing a tough life situation; it means responding to any type of challenge which helps with coping skills and learning how to find solutions to problems of all sorts. Volpitta says, ‘Using everyday setbacks to explore new and better ways to approach things helps all kids...It can help them build self-awareness and self-advocacy skills. It can also help them develop new strategies and tools for solving problems. And it can boost their motivation and self-esteem.’ For our students, developing their resilience in ways that are increasingly independent is an important area of growth. We see the skills mentioned by Volpitta transferring into their everyday school life as they learn to be more proactive, confident, and ultimately, independent.
As a parent of older children, I realize it is important to be able to develop and follow through with projects independently. My daughter who graduated from SAS in 2015 did not have the chance to experience independent projects at SAS. So when she had to manage one for an internship, it was pretty stressful for her.
We’re already gearing up for another three weeks of TRi Time this semester. Students in my classes are already reflecting on their last project, laughing about their roadblocks, and planning for a new project ahead. As their TRi Time teacher, I’m looking forward to guiding students through the struggles and successes of their next adventure.
Project: Working on my graphic novel adaptation of my favorite book, Scythe Roadblock: Even with the Wacom Cintiq software, it was hard to form the graphic novel. To make this make sense to you, it’s like if you had an infinite number of clothes, bags, and jewelry. You could make an infinite number of outfits and combinations but which one is the best?
Solution: That was one of the dilemmas I faced but after a good half hour of sketching I found my art style and after that, it was a creative flow. I presented all my work to my homebase via a speed drawing video (with commentary from me.)
Project: Write an essay about the Holocaust Roadblock: Working out my driving questions and finishing the project in three weeks. Making sure I included important parts of my research.
Solution: When going over my notes I realized that one of my anecdotes related back to Anne Frank who I have read so many books about. I totally forgot all about her and how she was part of the Holocaust. Her story helped me to better focus my work and my understanding of the Holocaust.
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