What do you get when you combine graham crackers, licorice and Promethean Boards? If you're a student in Eric Lee's or Kim Gerould's classes at Greenhills School, you get a fascinating learning experience that kept thirty-seven third-graders so entranced that they didn't want to stop for recess.
The lesson began with Mr. Lee at the Promethean Board, a touch sensitive extension of the computer that allows students to interact with the information on the board as they review what they had learned about imports and exports, producers and consumers, and making budgets. Two students tapped a button on the screen, turning their pointers into erasers and erased a picture of a computer game to review a definition of "wants" and a picture of a bag of groceries that revealed the definition of "needs."
After the review the students broke up into groups of four, equally mixed with boys and girls and with students from the two classes, and went to work on developing a budget for building a house. After deciding both their needs, like walls and doors, and their wants, like a pond with fish in it, they took their agreed upon budget to the supply store where they got graham cracker walls with frosting to hold them to a milk carton, fruit roll-up doors and other items to create their own houses.
When the homes were all built, the students came together to share how they made decisions when one person wanted a pond and another wanted a deck or more grass. Finally, the lesson concluded with a homework assignment for students to list the items in their bedrooms as "wants" or "needs." In talking with Mr. Lee, I learned that a follow-up discussion will get them to compare their bedrooms with families in Uganda based on the experiences of a room parent, leading into a service project for the class.
In about an hour of totally filled class time the students worked on mathematics, consumer education, and group problem solving and then connected what they were learning in school with their real lives outside the classroom. Later they'll learn about another culture and do a service project. I wonder how many adults accomplish that much in such a short time?