By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator, iLEAD Schools
In an effort to engage in the universality and power of play, iLEAD Agua Dulce has embarked on an ambitious school-wide project to answer the driving question “How Can I Spread the Joy of Toys?”
Now entering its third school year, iLEAD Agua Dulce has established the tradition of doing a school-wide project each fall.
“Facilitating a school-wide project creates collaboration and school community and sets the standard for the rest of the year,” Latimer said. “Once we implement something powerful school-wide, the learners embrace the 7 Habits, they understand their ‘why’ and they learn to be part of a real community-based culture.”
Both learners and facilitators benefit, according to Latimer. Through the school-wide project, the team becomes more adept at problem-solving, communication and embracing a common mission.
“The facilitators end up doing better work together overall and become part of a healthier work culture,” Latimer said. “We build even greater bonds as a staff due to the high level of collaboration.”
Fourth grade facilitator Chris Bojorquez-Engelhardt spoke about the benefits of implementing a school-wide project early in the year. “It demonstrates the school synergy to both learners and facilitators, as well as community,” Bojorquez-Engelhardt said. “New facilitators have support on their first project because all facilitators are engaged in a similar pursuit.”
When approaching a school-wide project, each grade-level facilitator adapts the challenge to their learners. At iLEAD Agua Dulce, here’s what the current project looks like by grade level:
Purpose: Learners will engage in the engineering and design-thinking process to stay connected with one another to create a sense of joy and normalcy during these unprecedented times.
Purpose: Learners will connect with the idea of “paying it forward” through philanthropic ideas and engage in engineering and design thinking.
Purpose: Learners will identify and interpret the multiple causes and effects of consumerism through the exploration of toy products and engage in the engineering and design-thinking process.
Purpose: Learners will understand the entrepreneurial spirit by exploring different ways to create a successful business through the exploration of toys.
Purpose: Learners will demonstrate their resourcefulness by using their engineering and design-thinking skills to create a toy/game and a successful marketing strategy that adapts to the present-day pandemic.
Launching a school-wide project is ambitious, as it needs to connect with learners, facilitators and the entire school community. For iLEAD Agua Dulce facilitators, the current project resonated intellectually, emotionally and even personally.
Outdoor Classroom Facilitator Aidan Bybee believes this project speaks perfectly to childhood and to the play-based-learning philosophy of iLEAD Agua Dulce. “The driving question will capture our learners’ attention,” Bybee said.
Facilitator Rhonna Horney, whose learners will focus on paying it forward through their project, said, “This project clicked with me because I’ve been fortunate to experience the joy of giving. I think it will resonate with my learners as well because they enjoy ultimately giving to others.”
For sixth grade facilitator Nathan De Los Reyes, this project struck a personal chord, as he remembered how much a plastic dinosaur meant to him as a child. “To me that toy was like a friend,” De Los Reyes said. “My hope is that my learners can enjoy creating a toy, selling that toy and also creating stories about their toy. I want them to see firsthand how they can truly spread the joy of toys to others.”
Whether learners are discovering processes for marketing, service or design, fourth grade facilitator Chris Bojorquez-Engelhardt said he sees endless potential for products, avenues and outcomes. “I’m very excited to see the creativity learners are going to bring to this project. I want them to see the why behind it.”
Third grade facilitator Rhonna Horney noted that this project ultimately empowers learners to address needs in the community. She said, “Compassion and empathy are important values to instill in the future generations, and I believe this project supports that.”
Director Lisa Latimer said, “This project sparks curiosity and inquiry, while being relevant, personalized and engaging. It not only embodies design, engineering, entrepreneurialism and philanthropy, but encompasses all areas of the curriculum. More importantly, it allows our learners to have voice and choice regarding how they want to present their creative product, speak their thoughts and have their opinions valued.”
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