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Passport to Passion

This is a guest blog post written by Greenwood Elementary School’s Music Specialist, Mr. Brian Westgard.  Our team of Specialists recently planned and organized an amazing experience for our students.  The entire evening was a HUGE celebration of student creativity. I asked Brian if he’d be willing to provide a snapshot of the “Passport to Passion” event and he graciously agreed. Mr. Westgard is newer to Twitter, and you can connect with him at @MrWestgard.


Unpacking Passport to Passion
The “Passport to Passion” event was created to highlight the student talent and achievement taking place in the specialist subject areas of Music, Art, Physical Education, Technology, Spanish, Media, and Vision 21. In the weeks preceding the event, students spent time working with their specialist teachers to prepare material to showcase and share with family members, friends, and guests who were able to attend. The name “Passport to Passion” was derived from the process in which students shared their experiences with their guests throughout the evening. Upon arrival, students were issued a “passport” to use as a guide for the event. The passport was a folded piece of paper containing learning objectives for each subject area. While visiting a particular subject area, students were awarded a star sticker for their passport if they were able to explain the learning objective to their guests. As students and guests made the rounds throughout the evening, their goal was to successfully fill their passport with stars for each subject area.  

The event as a whole was beneficial to all parties involved. While students had a chance to showcase their hard work and achievement, teachers and staff members were in turn able to interact with parents and family members regarding curriculum and the learning process. For specialist teachers in particular this opportunity was incredibly valuable. Every experience as students and guests traveled from area to area was something new, as each subject area prepared and showcased material for the event in a different way. For example, the art department worked with students to feature artwork, sculptures, and other creations. Media and literacy teachers prepared a scavenger hunt throughout the media center for students and their guests. 

As the music specialist, I wanted to prepare students for the “Passport to Passion” event by utilizing technology to work with students on the concepts of steady beat, rhythm, and teamwork. This year, our technology department introduced Sphero (a spherical robot controlled by a mobile device) to aid students in the learning process. While collaborating with our technology specialist I became aware of Sphero’s ability to illuminate, and the ability to manipulate the color and timing of of the color change by tapping the mobile controlling device with a finger. In music lessons leading up to the event, I worked with 3rd and 4th grade students on their ability to change Sphero’s color with regard to musical beat and rhythm. I composed and recorded a song to go with the lesson (aptly titled “The Sphero Jam”), and assigned students a variety of beat and rhythm patterns to coincide with the musical nature of the song. Throughout the lessons I captured various video clips of students learning and working together in an effort to succeed. I then compiled the video clips and arranged them into a video presentation for students and guests to watch when they arrived for the music subject area portion of the “Passport to Passion” event. I also made available a handful of Sphero devices for students to demonstrate to guests how what they were seeing in the video was done. 

The link to the video is included above. Though I was involved primarily with the music subject area of the event, “Passport to Passion” led to a destination for all specialist areas of academic excellence for students, staff, and guests alike.  

Brian M. Westgard
Music Specialist – Greenwood Elementary School

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What Do You Burn For?

One of my favorite songs is “Soul on Fire” by Third Day.  The words speak to my heart and embolden a passion that is deep within me every time I listen.  I think about many things when I hear the song including my family and our students.

The thing I probably love most about “Soul on Fire” is that it requires a response.  It’s impossible not to feel anything after listening.  It’s impossible not to burn.  So what do you burn for?  What drives you?  Who and what define your classroom, school, and work?

I “burn” to call out greatness in our students, and to empower their “voice” and ownership in education.  I want children everywhere, regardless of their address, to experience authentic and relevant learning that fosters essential life skills.  I burn for a new learning paradigm where our kids are supported with cutting-edge opportunities made possible by educators who are committed to cultivating character and digital citizenship through meaningful technology integration.  I long to see a connected pedagogy that inspires new levels of learning for all students; each and every single one of them.

Our students deserve the very best of what this great country has to offer and it is our deepest responsibility to deliver for them.  It’s educational malpractice to limit student opportunity based upon what we refuse to learn.  I burn to learn what’s required of me to help our students be anything they might aspire to be.

“If we don’t stand for something we’ll fall for everything.” ~Peter Marshall (1902)

So what do YOU stand for?  What burns so deep inside that you can hardly wait to wake up each day to drive to work and deliver?

Becoming David

David v Goliath

When I was younger I heard stories about a young boy named David.  He defeated a strong adversary named Goliath.  Growing up I learned about other unlikely triumphs as well:

  • The New York Giants faced their Goliath in Super Bowl XLII.  They went toe-to-toe with the undefeated New England Patriots, and scored two touchdowns in the 4th quarter to pull off a dramatic upset.
  • Thomas Edison invented the light bulb after facing his Goliath hundreds and hundreds of times.  If you had asked Edison, he’d have said that he did not fail 1,000 times, but instead he learned 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb.  What a perspective!
  • Truman eventually triumphed over Dewey in the 1948 Presidential Election, but only after being counted out early by the Chicago Tribune.  They were so certain of his demise that they ran headlines that were incorrect.

Each of the examples above involves an epic upset from the past, but what would the educational headlines say today?  Would they mistakenly predict a victory for Goliath?

A vast number of conversations are currently being dedicated to assessment and accountability.  My concern is that assessment for the purpose of ranking students or comparing kids is not sound pedagogy.  How a student fills in his bubbles should not be the sole purpose of education or the single determinant of his success.  Is this best for kids, and who is responsible for this storyline?

In many ways we are responsible and may indirectly perpetuate some of the very things we care deeply about changing.  The good news is that we can all aspire to be like David in confronting the status quo; we are the New York Giants, Thomas Edison, and Harry S. Truman rolled into one.

Against all odds, I believe the status quo is in for a whooping!  The greatest comeback story in education is playing out right now in innovative classrooms across the country.  Inspiring educators are focused on high achievement for each and every child, and we’re writing a new educational narrative at the same time.

Through personalized learning, meaningful technology integration, and establishing authentic relationships our focus is on student passion, potential, collaboration, critical-thinking, creation, and sharing.

I bet Goliath never saw this coming!  It’s rally time and we must persevere.

We are David and our students are counting on us to see this through!

**Photo Credit: GreenhousesportsBlogspot.com

Innovation & Creativity

I love creativity.  Passion inspires me.  Innovation is motivating because it is ripe with new learning and opportunities for our students.
 
I think that’s why I love my job so much.  I work with some of the most creative and passionate students and staff anywhere.  Anywhere.  The support from our school community is the best.  The best!
 
We work very hard and rely upon a professional creed that puts kids at the center of every decision we make.  Often times we operate from a widely accepted research base of best practices.  Sometimes….sometimes we delve into innovative waters and that’s where things get really cool.
 
Check out this new virtual tour of our school’s Media Center.  It’s both innovative and really cool!  The project has a literary twist and was filmed from the perspective of The Mouse and the Motorcycle—perfect for a virtual tour of a Media Center!
 
The video is the result of several weeks…months…. of work on the part of our very talented Technology Para, Mrs. Ingwaldson, and some creative students at Greenwood and other schools.  I want to thank Mrs. I for sharing her time and talents with us and give a special shout out to the students in the video that added an impressive and ever-smiling “wow-factor.”

This VIDEO originally posted September 12, 2012

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