GRS Summer Camp Day 4: On that question-making grind

Ah, day 4. In my opinion, the day that had the most good and the most bad, both in planning and execution. It was a day of grinding out thinking for both us and the campers. We got a lot, and I mean a lot done, but still not as much as we’d like. In addition, we missed the tail end of our plan, but I think to a degree, the thinking that we accomplished makes up for that.

The morning icebreaker was a success. We asked the campers to teach us easy and hard chants. We learned the Freedom School way, and the campers saw us more as people as we stumbled in learning the chants. We then gave every camper a marker and asked them to recap their first three days. Since everyone had a different color, they could each own what they had wrote. This bridged into refining that investigable question, which is when the grind truly presented itself.

It took much longer than expected, more than double the allotted time. Part of it was that it was not scaffoled as well as it could have, part of it was that there was still a lot of thinking it had to get done.

We used whiteboards, a word bank, our own questions, scientific language and laymen’s terms, and a lot of wait time in between… But we did it. Three days of hard work distilled down into a solid question that is presentable that took everyone’s effort to get there. This did not leave us much time for examining the graphs, but I firmly believe that it was a vital hurdle to leap over, although it could have been handled a bit better.

Which brings me to my pluses and arrows, most (but not all) of which reflect on this dilemma of the refinement of the investigable question.

One plus was my connection to the campers. Today I had the chance to open up a lot more and share more of myself that the campers could relate to. This carried over into our science work because I could use those connections to motivate and give the science an intermediate context which made it more attainable. Another plus was that everyone in the group contributed to our thinking. Each student took a role in the discussion that they were most comfortable in and contributed that way. I was not great at identifying the roles of each camper and their comfort zones at the very beginning, but over the course of the day I was better at managing the campers’ strengths and weaknesses.

As proud as I am with the capers’ work today, this was even more of a humbling day in terms of learning from my mistakes and how the lesson unfolded. On day 1, the rain was an uncontrollable factor that drove my pluses and arrows; today was all me.

While I did give appropriate wait time for the students to think, when I did interject with facilitating questions, I did not give enough time for the campers to absorb those questions before moving into the next facilitating questions. The three second wait time rule (while effective) is not universal. So I need to give more time when I ask an additional question because when I ask an additional question, the campers are processing the initial question on top of that. So when I give an additional facilitating question, I need to give way more time or I need to ask a camper “does anyone want to add to what I said?” or “Who wants to build off of that?” Another arrow was that I was too much of an instructor. I was not as much participant as I should have been; in navigating that line between student leader and instructor, I erred a bit too far in the role of instructor. While it got stuff done, camp had less of a camp feel. I still need to work on that balance, but I was able to see the affordances that having the role of instructor gave me. Knowing that being an instructor gives some urgency to what we are doing and that being the role of team leader gave more of a collaborative feel and allowed the campers more room to create their own thoughts and ideas. I need to better scaffold and give the right springboards for the campers to make their own strong connections but within a stable framework that concretely builds upon each day. Authentic inquiry is still a challenge and I still have some old habits that I picked up from other teaching internships to kick; today was a great opportunity for me to take some of my old tools that agree with authentic inquiry and integrate them with the new stuff I’ve learned. I still have to swallow some of the bitter pills of stumbling through and feeling inadequate, but if anything, I am learning and I have a better idea of how to do it the next time. I can live with that.

2 thoughts on “GRS Summer Camp Day 4: On that question-making grind

  1. Eric,

    You clearly learned a lot today. I think the best part about this camp experience is the opportunity to reflect and refine. Your willingness to be vulnerable, acknowledge the struggle, and refine your practice will be the key to your ongoing success!


  2. I love how you had your campers teach you some of the Freedom School chants. It’s wonderful seeing how excited they are to teach something in which they are experts… and all of those chants are super fun which is, of course, a huge plus.

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