Our community read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer as a One Book, One Community read.
The different formats enabled my elementary school students to participate. I was excited to have my students think about their community and work together within it to frame our thinking. I outline our project here and on my blog. Together with our cable station we created this video:
We read the book together, pausing periodically to listen for the challenges in William's community. Challenges we identified included:
- No lights
- No rain
- No water
- No food
- No money
- No school
With a working knowledge of what a "community" was and some identifiable challenges in William's community, we were then ready to identify challenges in our own community.
We began with a brainstorm of challenges in our community. For some classes this was too big of a question and they did better with "challenges in our school." I collected ideas on a padlet.
Challenges in our school
- Our playground is vandalized by older students
- Students don't follow the rules
- Students don't treat each other respectfully
- Litter (this came up over and over)
- Some people don't have jobs or money
- Car accidents/bad drivers/poor road conditions
- Rail Trail - is this good for our town or not?
- Car accidents
- Homelessness and hunger (some classes insisted that these situations did NOT exist in their town) although I assured them that they did and we talked about how these people are hopefully receiving aid from family, friends, and resources in town.
Now it was time for students to choose a challenge they wanted to work on, spend some time thinking about possible solutions and plan how they would do something about it. I had students self select teams (they had the option to work independently or in teams of 2 and 3). They began developing their ideas.
First we brainstormed what kind of projects these might be, thinking about what skills we had that we could employ. Grades 2-5 used this list:
- Build - Legos
- Draw a picture or poster
- Google Slides
- Write a letter
- Write a voicemail message
Students showed their thinking in a variety of formats:
1st graders were given a drawing assignment to show the "before" and "after" of their proposed solution. They drew their thinking.
- We worked hard
- We should do this again
- My team loved it so much
- It was fun and I'm looking forward to doing it again
- You get a lot more work done with a friend
- I am a good teammate
- We worked together and didn't get off track
- I loved this project
- I learned something new
- He was the best windmill maker
- This project is fun and should be done all around the US
- There are a lot of problems here
- The challenge was kind of fun
The assessment confirmed what I felt and saw - students were engaged and invested in their project and their thinking. I enjoyed this project that allowed me to ask the same "big questions" to everyone from grades 1-5. Genuine problems in my students' minds were valued and creative solutions were demonstrated in the project they chose. Students had voice and choice in this project and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
On our final day, I read Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson & Sean Qualls to many classes and we made connections between the two stories.
- They are both about a young boy
- They are both true
- They both take place in Africa
- Both boys were trying to make things better
- Both boys had challenges
- Both boys made a difference
After book selection, students could choose an activity - they could look at student work or take a selfie using the app Comic Touch and share what is great about our school and community. A few of those selfies are highlighted here.