I have been able to create a low stakes island compared to my current school day environment. I am working in an after school enrichment/mentoring/tutorial program and many of these student are SpEd, ED, LD or at risk due to behavior issues at school.
I was given the opportunity to create my own course as long as I could show some alignment to the Texas testing standards. I chose to focus on Geometry and have a session called “Arts and Maths” (instead of arts and crafts 🙂 ) where we start with basic geometry skils such as identifying symetry and number of sides for 2-D figures then faces, edges and vertices for 3-d figures. I then allowed them to explored what they could do with the basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle) by chosing one to create a 2-d shape and discovering how to create a 3-d form of that very shape starting with the one that they chose. We have now transitioned to simply compounding shapes to create things (introducing them to architecture/engineering) but keeping allowing them to build whatever they liked initially from wooden blocks. The students are so used to being told exactly what to do as they prepare for STAAR testing that they wouldn’t start stacking a wooden block onto another until I told them what to build. They even asked for pictures or instructions. Their choice eventually came from me refusing to take it away. They experimented with things that didn’t look like what they thought that they should have built. I finally introduced different materials to use in addition to the wood blocks which included magna tiles, playstix, wedgits and a super architect builders set. They were allowed to choose which to material they wanted to build with and what to build. They finally begin to experiment on their own to create their own art (some practical use items and some not so much) each student was excited and proud about their individual accomplishment and even wanted to disassemble their masterpieces to create a new one.
After they took ownership of their projects I went to a student and gave her the book that came with the wedgits that had many ideas and she looked through it. I walked around and awarded true effort and spoke with the other individual students about their projects and every time I returned to her table she had a new creation. Each time I would ask her if it had come from the book since she had access to so many ideas now and she replied “I have my own ideas now so I don’t need that book anymore”. I was amazed at the change in ownership over the course of a twenty minute time period. I love COVA. 🙂 We have to actively practice and model the COVA method continuously as it works but takes time to break out of the regurgitation model which used to be the foundation of education. Wait time is invaluable if you can risk time being off the scoped calendar some then you will gain that timer back and some by the end of the year.