Today is day three of the Fall Break following Intersession Week. A week that was wonderfully rewarding, but pretty much always requires time off afterwards to recover. I thought I would write a follow up blog entry indicating how it went. From my perspective, it was great watching the kids come and go – excited about an adventure they were about to embark on, swapping stories with friends from a different session about what they did or what a speaker said. Because we didn’t have options that were out of town this time (a first), we didn’t experience the same level of joyous reunion on Friday that we have seen in the past. On the other hand, because they were around to share lunch and chat before and afterschool, it seemed like they had a better sense of what learning their peers were experiencing.
At our next staff meeting the teachers will have the opportunity to share their experiences and we will collectively work to make next semester’s even better. In addition to the teacher’s perspective, we rely on student surveys to ascertain how successful the week has been. Student surveys, like standardized tests, provide some good data, but do not give the complete picture. However, I do believe we too rarely ask students to reflect on their learning, both for their own benefit as well as ours.
Here are some of the questions we asked them along with the results (on a Likert scale of 1-4, 1 being agree and 4 being disagree).
“There were opportunities to learn new things during this Intersession.”
- 1-57 responses
- 2 – 7 responses
- 3 – 0 responses
- 4- 0 responses
“I learned a lot during this Intersession.”
- 1-53 responses
- 2-9 responses
- 3 – 1 response
- 4- 1 response
“I enjoyed this Intersession very much.”
- 1-53 responses
- 2-9 responses
- 3-1 response
- 4-1 response
We also ask students to write about the most important thing(s) they learned. Here is a sample of what they said:
- How to work with others and be patient.
- How just writing a story doesn’t make you a writer. Reading, learning, watching everything not just writing. And just because what you wrote sucks doesn’t mean you suck as a writer.
- How to spend money wisely and to make sure that you have enough fabric.
- The most important thing I have learned is how to develop a plot well.
- How to work in a group of people I don’t really like.
- I learned lots of stuff about bike safety and how to maintain a bike and I learned to ration my water on a long hike.
- I learned that hiking is really hard for me. I also learned that being a zoo keeper is really hard and very dangerous and that zoos actually help the population and that white rhinos were almost extinct and that black rhinos are extinct and that people believe that rhino horns are magical and it can heal you. I also learned it is really hard keeping dogs under control and how hard it is to adopt dogs out. I also learned that long hair dogs are really hard to take care of.
- The most important thing I learned was that by building things, we are pushing animals into areas they aren’t used to. Places like the Desert Museum are trying to educate people on what we are doing, by having “ambassadors.” We need to help animals keep their homes.
- I think the most important thing I learned was we have the good life. There are so many other people that are in poverty and we are very lucky.
- How to keep going to achieve your goals and to not give up. We also learned about refugees. We learned mostly about grit and perseverance for long term goals.
We don’t have a process currently for systematically culling parent opinions. When we were on a trimester schedule we had student presentations of their Intersession on Friday and received a lot of parent feedback — overwhelmingly positive — at that time. (We now have students present the following week on consecutive Kivas – our morning whole school assembly time). However, occasionally a parent will take the time to send us an appreciative email. This is one was sent to her daughter’s teacher and copied to me. It came in over the weekend and made my day.
“I just wanted to say thanks for all the hard work you did for the kids this intersession. It was our first, and what a great experience. [My child] is a kid who has traditionally been more interested in the social goings on at school and never really engaged in the actual school work. In 6 years of elementary school, I never heard a word that indicated any engagement with the course work. PFFS has changed that, and your intersession blew the top off. The child never stopped talking from the time I picked her up until she went to sleep, and she wasn’t talking about who said what to who. She was talking about what you all had done, seen, and learned. HOORAY! So grateful.”