Structure for Openness
Once a topic is decided this determines the flow of activities.
Students begin with representing what they know. That starts the cycle at the Represent rectangle.
Next they share their representations.
Next is a conversation about what and where to investigate their interests. The choices offer ways for students to bring back information both in raw form and/or in interpreted form, which they then share with their topic team.
After sharing, the team represents what they learned using one of the representation choices.
Then on to sharing with the entire class.
Then on to the next investigation.
Teachers Discover What This Experience Feels Like
I know of no way to understand a Structure of Openness without experiencing it first hand. At North Seattle College we have a wetlands nature preserve which I used following the cycle above.
Students began by reflecting on their childhood experiences of nature, drawing a picture or writing a short description of a memorable time outdoors, which they shared with each other in small groups and posted on the wall. Then we went for a walk in the wetlands. This is what one student wrote reflecting on the impact of the three weeks we spent in the cycles of the Structure for Openness.
At the beginning I was excited to be outside doing something out of the ordinary for a class. As I breathed in the evening air my stress of the day flew away. As we walked I had conversations with old friends and made new friends. I felt revitalized and free to explore and absorb what was around me. My mind was open and curious. When we came back to class, we drew what we experienced, and I thought, “Wow! I’m drawing!” This quiet time of reflection and self-expression gave me pleasant thoughts and feelings. I felt warm and amazingly successful. I felt I was immediately part of a shared experience.
As we formed groups around a shared study, sketched, measured, counted, wrote, and graphed, I began to see clear steps in this process. These steps were not too rigid, but they led the way toward something deeply shared. I felt part of a group excited with a common purpose. I could feel the warm communication and care from everyone. We were excited to be doing what we were doing. I was excited! What fun it was to create, explore, and reflect in an environment where people were free to be themselves. I learned so much. I respected every person there.
In the end as people gathered pictures, poems, and drawings for their final books, the outside pressures loomed. However, comfort, care, and support pervaded the room. We did it. We all created something new, and it’s beautiful!
I am so proud of my time being creative. I am proud of feeling that peace. If I were to experience this again I would want to be in the moment more. Be present entirely. — Carrie Smart