When Jennifer Teegardin’s second grade students learn about solids, liquids and gases, they don’t just memorize words and definitions—they make pancakes.
“It gives them a chance to put something concrete with their knowledge and make those connections,” she said.
Recently, when the batter hit the griddle, her students naturally began making observations: Heat turned liquids into solids. Bubbles formed from gases in the batter. Steam rose. Later, Teegardin asked her students to reflect on the experience: “Why do you think that was a liquid? Why a solid?”
“They had great conversations,” she said. “It’s not just paper and pencil. It’s dialogue. The classroom is not quiet like it used to be. The kids are active and talking.”
Hockinson Heights Elementary School Principal Josh Robertson calls this type of activity a “student-driven, teacher-facilitated model,” which he contrasts with the old “sit-and-get” way, where teachers presented information, and students did worksheets.
The new model brings students beyond formulas that might not apply to every situation, and immerses them in problem-solving—collaborating to build connections between concepts and their real-life applications.
“They’re doing the thinking,” Teegardin said. “They can’t just say ‘I knew it.’”
Robertson said his leadership team—Assistant Principal Meredith Gannon, instructional coach Cary Delbridge and reading specialist Stephanie Goad—is focused on this type of instruction.
“It’s a deeper level of thinking,” he said. “We’re preparing kids to be unique thinkers, to design things, to think outside the box. We’re not educating them for our past—but for their futures.”
Originally published in Hockinson’s November 2017 newsletter “Education Matters.”