March 18, 2015

What I learned during open education day in Zürich

During open education day / Tag der Schulen in Zürich on March 17th, 2015, I learned this:

# 1: Teachers help students learn how to take initiative
After a class, a group of students was going to walk from from one location to another location outside the building. A teacher asked students who would like to walk in the front of the group, and who would like to walk in the back of the group. Two students raised their hands, and they each chose whom they would like to be accompanied by. Earlier in the day, the same teacher also encouraged / helped a student take initiative in another way: The group / class had received a letter from another group / class indicating that paper had been disposed in the playground by members of the group. The teacher asked students who would like to take the lead in ensuring that the littering problem would be reduced. One girl took the initiative.

# 2: Use of own mobile electronic devices
One student liked using mobile electronic devices so much that, when asked during a drawing lesson to draw anything he wanted to draw, he chose to draw / create a smartphone using a paper and various materials. The interest of this student and many of his fellow students to use mobile electronic devices for education stands in relatively strong contrast to the fact that students were not allowed to use their own mobile electronic devices.

# 3: Students teach each other and give feedback to each other
In one class, I noticed that students were helping each other understand a particular topic, for example by sharing research they had done and giving feedback to each other. The teacher served students in various ways, for example by involving all students in one way or the other, praising what students were doing well, and by helping students give and receive feedback to / from each other. For inspiration on giving and receiving feedback, please visit this link.

# 4: Gender diversity
For every male teacher, I saw during open education day in Zürich. I saw at least 5 female teachers. And for every father I saw during the day, I saw at least 5 mothers. For more information about gender diversity around the world, please visit this link.

# 5: Work across age groups
One teacher had initiated that children help each other across age groups. For example, I learned that students from 6th grade had made a chocolate workshop with students from 2nd grade - helping them learn how to make chocolate.

# 6: Parents are involved
One teacher, I had an interesting conversation with, had involved parents in an innovative way. She had found out, for example, that five of the students in her 2nd grade class had parents who worked as architects. And she had facilitated that some of the parents participated in educating the children in, for example, understanding buildings and the environments they live among / are a part of. I learned that during a session, students walked from the school building to the centre of Zürich - reflecting on questions such as these along the way: 
- How do I use this space?
- What are the differences between the spaces?
- To what extent do I shape which spaces? To what extent do which spaces shape me?
- Does a space have feelings?
- How do I want to live?
- How does my favourite city look like?

Learning about this creative initiative, I came to think of the many exciting ideas communicated on NextZürich.

# 7: Elderly people are involved
During open education day in Zürich, I had a wonderful dialogue with an elderly woman who had worked as an educator for 39 years. During the day, she assisted the son of her neighbour, a couple who were both busy during the day and did not have the possibility to participate in open education day.

# 8: Help doing homework at the end of the day
One of the many good learning experiences I had during open education day in Zürich was an hour at the end of the day tailored at helping students get their homework done. I was happy to be able to help a boy, who had come to Switzerland from America, as well as a girl. With the two, I worked, for example, on doing various exercises aimed at learning math and German.

# 9: Some people are more introverted than extroverted - and some are more extroverted than introverted
During open education day in Zürich, I saw students who were more introverted than extroverted and students who were more extroverted than introverted. More on personality here. It was great to see that teachers supported students well by moderating a variety of different individual exercises, exercises in groups of two people, and exercises in groups with more than two participants.

# 10: Wish hour
Following a math class, a teacher initiated, with students in 1st grade, a wish hour / "Wunschstunde."  During this hour, kids could choose to do anything they wanted. The only requirement the teacher set during the hour was that students documented, during the last 5 minutes of the hour, what they had done during this wish hour. It was interesting to observe what the children decided to do during this period of time, i.e. what they were passionate about. I noticed that some children were playing with musical instruments and others with a ball. Also, there were some children who were reading, others who were communicating with each other, and others who were building things with different materials, for example materials made of wood.

Observed during open education day in Zürich: Small guitars in a variety of different colours.

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