Monday, November 18, 2013

Diorama to Minecraft: A Shift in Audience

Last week, my 4th grader came home with another science project to do at home. The final product was to be a shoebox diorama of a temperate forest biome.  My initial reaction was annoyance, as at home science projects become parent projects in my opinion. My second reaction was disappointment because a diorama is a decidedly low tech option to learning product. Also, we have made a diorama each and every year for different reasons, and we are not crafty people. Plus, I had not saved a shoebox in preparation!

Last winter break, Dylan came home with a Solar System project that I know my neighbors spent beaucoup bucks at JoAnne Fabrics and Hobby Lobby getting supplies and then hours and hours cutting, folding, painting, etc. We encouraged our son to create his on his own from supplies we had at home. The Solar System he created was not a thing of beauty, but he did learn about scale and how to transfer that to a replica of the solar system, and the order of the planets. String, balls of colored paper and a bend coat hanger did the job.

This 4th grade science project was to create a shoebox diorama of a temperate forest. We had to have a balance of living and non living elements, to site the sources for research, use copyright free images and to write 5 interesting facts. He started by going to find images to print out. Scale is important in this project also, because the mushrooms couldn't be bigger than the rabbits or foxes in the representation of the biome. That's when he got frustrated! He is not a PhotoShop expert, so he struggled to get the sizes right. After several sizing failures, Dylan got an idea!

My son is a HUGE Minecraft fan, and spends a lot of time creating hotels, farms and buildings with the neighbors in all kinds of worlds. He asked if he could create the biome in Minecraft. He wanted to create the world, record himself doing an explanation of the biome (like he sees on YouTube all the time) and then add in his interesting facts at the end. I took a chance and emailed his teacher. She thought it would be a great idea!

I am so proud of my son for taking his learning into his own hands and asking his teacher to change the project. I am so pleased with his 4th grade teacher Ms. Lardo, for taking a chance and allowing student choice to modify her lesson plans. I hope that other teachers will see this project, and perhaps allow student choice to transform their projects from a very low tech diorama to a more 21st century project, with an authentic audience and that embraces creativity.

When I checked before writing this post, he already had 2 comments and 54 views of his video, and I have only shared it on Facebook! Talk about an audience larger than his teacher or class! Dylan saw the comments people left for him earlier today, (thanks @jepke and @JMGubbins for taking the time) and was so pleased to have feedback from viewers. He eyes lit up. I had tears in my eyes.

Oh...and I know he knows a lot about the characteristics of a temperate forest as well.

1 comment:

  1. Jen,
    I love the fact that he came up with the idea, and also that the teacher said YES! Phew! I worried that she would say no. I can see teachers saying no... but I'd bet this teacher loved the new look, too! Imagine, after all the dioramas that come through her door... Congrats to your 4th grader, and congrats to the teacher who "allowed" it. Next step - the teacher asks students HOW they can show what they've learned. :-) Thanks for sharing your celebration!