Students spent much of December deeply engaged in the Class Store project. In a nutshell, they had to brainstorm and create their own business, designing and manufacturing product to sell and working through what it truly means to play a role in the economy.Quite often during a project, families of students see only a beautiful finished product…all polished and shiny and clean. The messy, complicated, reflective process that has created that final product is not as evident and is often times hidden away from the public eye. However, at PNA we embrace that process and argue that it is just as important, if not more, than the final product.
So much learning goes on in these workings of a process…critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, collaboration…these are just a few of the skills students need to call upon in order to successfully navigate an authentic learning experience. In times like these, students are thrown off-balance and often pushed right out of their comfort zones, and into a learning disequilibrium.
That disequilibrium can take on many forms, whether it’s realizing that the commercial that sounded great on paper needed way more work, to figuring out how to successfully achieve the daunting task of filling way more orders than anticipated, to hearing feedback on your first efforts and finding that grit to try again.
Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, asked “Are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is already known?” At PNA we strive to do the exact opposite of this. We develop activities and experiences so that children are given opportunities to think for themselves, who practice becoming intuitive problem solvers and creative collaborators and who become increasingly confident in their own abilities. We do this by embracing that disequilibrium state and giving them the opportunity and support to really learn and grow.
Part of engaging in such learning experiences is the support that comes when unexpected challenges occur, as well as having that growth mindset to move on from frustrations and problems. At PNA, we believe in having the courage to make mistakes and then taking that knowledge and learning from it, all while feeling supported and valued, no matter our age.
These are the kinds of skills that are becoming increasingly more important in today’s work force, and these are the skills that PNA students learn and hone on a daily basis.
This year, we had the unexpected challenges that come with Covid in pulling off this project. Instead of the fair type shopping experience with student created and run booths, the students created this online catalog to advertise their goods. Their customers filled out paper order forms and sent them in. The second graders then had to fill the orders and deliver the product to the customers.
The next time you see a proud student with their finished project, please think a minute about what must have gone into it and all of those messy, but oh so important, behind the scenes moments!