I wanted to teach an elective class that would be fun and meaningful to my students. I had a few core values that I wanted to be part of the class. I was sure that I wanted my class to involve creative problem solving where students had to guide their own learning. Learning how to learn is so important and too often students look to the teacher for all the answers, even when they can find the answer themselves. We as teachers get in the way of learning when we think we are "teaching" by giving students the answers rather than letting students discover the answers themselves (This idea requires its own post). I also thought that students should be creating, rather than just gathering knowledge. Students need to feel that the knowledge is useful. If we provide them with experiences where they need to solve problems and they have access to the tools and 21st century skills to be successful, then the learning is profound. As I was brainstorming different ideas I was also sure to consider my own interests. After all, I too wanted to enjoy the class and students would be encouraged by my enthusiasm and passion. I decided I would teach a class about electronics and computer programming. I felt that this is interesting for students and extremely relevant for the future world these students will live in.
Since there was no class or curriculum for this course at my school, I needed to approach my principle with the idea. I explained the concept of the course and how this course would teach students invaluable skills for the future. My principal liked the idea and agreed to purchase 10 Arduino starter kits for my class. This would be a class for 8th grade students and would focus on engineering, programming, and creative problem solving.
Once I knew that the course would be offered, I needed to come up with a name and course description. I called it "Electronics" and luckily for me the counselor said "No one will take this class. Can we call it something else?" So I thought about what this class really represented and came up with the name "Inventor's Workshop." Little did I know that that name would serve as a guide for me and the course over the next few years.
The name "Inventor's Workshop" opened up the opportunity for this class to evolve into something more than a electronics class. After a year of teaching Arduino, the class expanded into a hands on making class with everything from woodworking and graphic design to 3D printing and service learning. Even today Inventor's Workshop still embodies the same ideas.
Students are empowered to take their ideas and make them a reality. Students realize that through their creations, they have the power to shape the world around them.