I can't really say that Valentine's Day is my favorite in-school holiday and this year, with two classes of middle school girls mostly, that remains true! However, in addition to our Valentine Celebration we had two other events, one was a student organized talent show (about which I am sure I will have more to say later) and a Culture Fair put on by my middle school History class.
This was our first Culture Fair, and apparently, for many of my 7 exhibitors this was their first time really exhibiting their work. Each student chose a culture we have studied this unit to present in a small exhbit on their desk top. Not a surprise to me, we had only Maya and Aztec represented, because who can resist a good temple or sacrifice right? For two weeks, students worked in class and at home to design a visual display, an artifact and a written presentation. They needed to find something that would make a good desk cover and they needed to be prepared to man their exibits for 30 minutes for walk-through exhibitors.
As I went to bed last night, I was telling my husband that I was hoping that no one was disappointed today. We used a small portion of our classroom for the display, there was no stage, no glitz or glamour. These were truly student made projects, not parent made, or ordered online kits. These were true planning and problem solving projects: sugar cube temples; corn-fields of painted drinking straws; craft stick and modeling clay huts . . . and the most amazing part for me, these were projects by learners who often struggle with sequencing, planning, problem solving and expressive language, not to mention anxiety of "performing" in front of their peers, forget parents, students, teachers and grandparents! And it was wonderful!!!!! The only disappointment was for those who had to wait for an opening at the exhibit they wanted to visit next or the researcher who had a lull in the action as visitors were at other exhibits.
Each of my researchers had to explain their project many times and field questions. They had to fluctuate between communicating with people they knew and people they didn't know. They also had the opportunity to explain their work to an audience of more than me and earn some appreciation in addition to a grade. I have heard that it takes 7 positive statements to make up for 1 negative statement. Today, I was proud and humbled that our Culture Fair was able to make up for a lot of negative feedback that some of my students have received in the past in regards to their performance and output abilities! I was proud that my students were proud of themselves! I was thrilled that my students got to see that their work matters to more than just me or their own mom and dad! I was gratified to know that my students know that they are part of a learning community! On top of all these proud moments today, one of our dads stopped by me on his way out the door and very quietly let me know that he thought I got the A+ today for what our Culture Fair did for our students' learning and, more importantly, for their self-esteem.
If Valentine's Day is about caring and warming the heart, then I suppose I did change my mind some. I really did enjoy this in-school Valentine's Day after all. . . . . .
Samplings of Our Exhibits (Enjoy!)