Fun Fridays for Everyone!

We love Fun Fridays around here, and we're always looking for ways to keep them interesting and exciting for all of the kids at the school. This can be pretty challenging, as our students range in age from 4 to 13, but just as in the classroom, we try to utilize the principles of differentiated instruction in order to include everyone.

One of our most recent Fun Fridays, American Inventions Day, provides a great example of how we can design activities that appeal to all ages and all interests. For this day, we balanced artistic expression, sensory exploration, and creative thinking. We encouraged our students to play with art and design by painting hot air balloons and designing crazy spectacles, while we also gave them the opportunity to experiment with music and tone on a type of glass armonica. We challenged them to design a machine that worked like the cotton gin and a flat-bottomed boat, and then put their designs to the test with some cotton balls and in the water. We also gave them a variety of raw materials and a very simple instruction: invent something based around a glove that will improve people's lives. Every child in the school, no matter the age, had an idea that they wanted to explore.

We have learned that modifications are key to designing activities that are approachable and interesting for all ages. Our cypher wheel activity encompassed two versions of this early coding device: a more complicated version based on a 3D cylinder (like the original design), and a simplified 2D version that required a lot less cutting and taping. Both versions allowed the kids to create a device for deciphering codes that provided the right amount of challenge and the right amount of satisfaction.

A simple cypher wheel that operates by rotating concentric circles is perfect for a kindergartener.

A simple cypher wheel that operates by rotating concentric circles is perfect for a kindergartener.

A more complicated cypher wheel, requiring numerous independently rotating paper wheels, provides a greater challenge for a 5th grader.

A more complicated cypher wheel, requiring numerous independently rotating paper wheels, provides a greater challenge for a 5th grader.

Because of the variety of activities, this Fun Friday was a huge success, and we want to build on that success. On March 15, we're going to try out a new kind of Fun Friday that will give our older students a greater role and greater responsibility in the day: we're letting the kids run all of the activities! Our 5th-8th grade students will work in small groups with a teacher advisor to develop an activity based on a skill that they can teach to our K4-4th grade students. Our hope is that this day will encourage our older students to be the leaders at the school that we want them to be, while also giving them a chance to share something they love with our younger students. We're excited to see what they come up with! 

Jane Cross