A couple days ago my students, working in pairs, were using zomes to create three-dimensional representations of buildings and facilities that they would add to our city if they were given an opportunity to do so. The kids chose such ideas as a homeless shelter, animal care center, technology development laboratory, recycling center, and football stadium. (After all, we are in Los Angeles, a city that has been without an NFL team for a long time.) The project represented the culmination of our Geometry Challenge unit, and we will be displaying the structures at our upcoming Open House.
As I sat and watched the kids at work, I thought about the wonderful benefits that working on projects offers to young children. The man benefit that struck me right away involves the important communication skills that projects can help students develop.
For example, one young girl realized that she and her partner needed more blue zomes. She approached another pair and offered a trade. The other group declined the initial offer (as all good negotiators are instructed to do) and countered. The kids negotiated for a while and ultimately agreed to a mutually beneficial deal. I was impressed by how quickly and amicably these kids were able to come to a resolution. Speaking up for oneself and taking action to get what one needs comes naturally for some children, but not for everyone. This type of project provides authentic opportunities to develop these valuable life skills.
Working cooperatively with a partner also brings into play a host of other important communication skills. With a project of this nature, each child is inevitably going to think of many unique design ideas and feel passionately that these ideas be used. Consequently, the members of each pair need to speak respectfully with each other, listen willingly to the thoughts of others, and find a way to turn multiple visions into one cohesive project. These skills are often difficult for adults, and if we can give children genuine opportunities to practice these skills in the classroom, then we are doing our students a great service.